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^a^iid (D.LiAc9<ay ^ibnamj 

Trevelyar, Sir Geo» Otto 
The ifflaerican Revolution 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 
Brigham Young University-Idaho 


Volume II 

By SIR G. 0. TREVELYAN, Bart., OM. 


In Six Volumes. Crown 8vo • . • • 

Separately, as follows : — 

Volume I., with Portrait and Map .... 
Volume IL, with Two Maps ..... 
Volume III., with Map and Complete Index to Volumes T - III 

Crown 8vo ....... 

Volume IV., Saratoga and Brandywine, Valley 
Forge, England and France at War. 

Crown 8vo, with Three Maps and Index . 

The Concluding Part of "The American Revolution." 

In Two Volumes. Crown Svo. Cloth, gilt top. 
Volume I., with a Map ...... 

Volume II., with Map and Index to both Volumes 








Volume II 





Copyright, 1903, by 

Copyright, 1905, by 


First Edition (Part II. Vol. i), printed June, 1903. 
Reprinted January, 1904. 

New Edition (Volume 2) , revised and rearranged January, 1905. 
Reprinted September, 1907; May, 1908; September, 1909; 
January, 1915, and April, 1917; December, 1921. 





The news from America i 

Horace Walpole and John Wesley 4 

The unpopularity of the Cabinet 9 

The Ministry invite Loyal Addresses . . ' . , .10 

Lord North's uneasiness 15 

The responsibility of Government for the American difficulty . 16 

The American Petition • 19 

Retirement of the Duke of Grafton 23 

Lord Rochford 26 

Lord George Germaine • • . 28 


Numerical weakness of the British army 32 

The King's energy . . 34 

Application for soldiers to Russia . • . • • • 35 

The German military system 37 

The Brunswick Contingent 42 

The Landgrave of Hesse 45 

Effect produced in America by the hiring of foreign troops . 49 

Debate in the Lords on the German Treaties .... 50 

Action taken in the Commons 53 

Charles Fox 57 

The Prohibitory Bill in the Lower House • • • • 59 





Hot discussion in the Peers ; Lord Lyttelton and the Duke of 

Richmond 63 

Lord Mansfield .67 


The Strategy of the impending campaign . • . . 

. 69 

Canada after the British Conquest 

• 71 

Sir Guy Carleton and. the Quebec Act 

. 74 

The American Invasion of Canada 


Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold 


Fall of Montgomery, and disasters of the Americans 


General Sullivan ........ 

. 84 

Carleton prepares to invade the rebellious colonies . 


Admiral Lord Howe 


Composition of General Howe^s army 


Excellence of our regimental officers 


Lieutenant-Colonel Markham 

' 97 

The life on a transport 


High quality of our soldiers 

. lOI 


Anomalous character of the American Congress 

Changed feeling on the question of National Independence 

Dickinson and the Adamses ... . . 

Publication of letters written by John Adams . 

His great influence in Congress ..... 

The business-like tone of that Assembly ; Patrick Henry 

The Reverend William Gordon and George Washington 
The fate of Gordon's history 



Congress recommends the re-constitution of the Provincial 

Governments 127 

Rapid advance made towards the accomplishment of that 

process ..,......« 128 




Importance of Pennsylvania, and of Philadelphia 
Parties in the colony : the Pennsylvania Assembly 
The Quakers and the Revolution . 
The Whig Coup d'Etat 

Thomas Paine 

" Common Sense " published 

Success of the work 

A Committee appointed to draw up the Declaration 
Debate on the Virginia Resolution . . . . 
The Declaration of Independence . , . . 
Adams and Jefferson • 











Washington at Boston 
Lord Stirling , 

Washington shifts his quarters to New York 

The American militia-men 

Their homesickness .... 

Their officers ...... 

Jealousy between the State Contingents . 
Washington's Staff .... 

His want of cavalry and artillerymen 
His Commissariat 

The marksmanship of the American soldiers 
Their aptitude for field-fortification 
Washington's Engineers 
Religious feeling in the Nation, and in the Army 








Philip Schuyler . . » . • 
The small-pox c . . . . 
Destitution in the Northern army . • 



Gates withdraws to Ticonderoga 

Benedict Arnold, and the fleet on Lake Champlain 

General Howe arrives at Sandy Hook 
Governor Tryon ....,• 
Loyalism in the State of New York 
The strategical situation .... 

Admiral Howe enters New York Bay 

The negotiations 

Visit of Franklin and Adams to Staten Island 


The British cross over to Long Island . . . , 
Washington's arrangements for the defence of Brooklyn 
Putnam to command on Long Island . . . , 

The Battle 

Critical position of the American army . . . , 
The retreat across the East River . . . . , 







The question of the retention, or abandonment, of New York 

city 297 

Howe lands on Manhattan Island, and captures New York . 297 

The fight of Haerlem 300 


Howe's dilatory tactics 306 

The great Fire in New York ....... 309 

The British army transported to Westchester Peninsula . •311 

The Battle of White Plains 313 

Colonel Harcourt 316 

Self-confidence of the Americans 320 

Advance of Sir Guy Carleton 323 

Battle off Valcour Island 324 

Carleton occupies Crown Point, and then withdraws to Canada 329 



Depletion of the American army . . • • 
Howe threatens Fort Washington .... 
Wealth and conservatism of the Westchester farmers 
Their treatment by the Hessians .... 

American outrages 

Howe^s attitude in regard to marauding, as compared with that 
of Washington 





I. Washington and the Reverend William Gordon 
II. Extracts from Amos Farnsworth's Diary 


At the e7id of the volume 

Map of the Country which was the Scene of Operations of the 
Northern Army. 

Map of the Northern Part of New Jersey;, and of New York and 
its Environs. 




The news of Lexington took six weeks to reach Eng- 
land, and came by an unusual channel. Massachusetts 
was eager to have the first word, but careful that that 
word should be an accurate one. A committee ap- 
pointed by her Provincial Congress held sittings in the 
district which had been the scene of hostilities, and took 
a large mass of evidence on oath. An account of the 
battle, addressed to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, 
was drawn up by another committee, over which Joseph 
Warren himself presided. The narrative was studiously 
moderate. The successes of the minute-men, and the 
disasters of the British, were related briefly, and in terms 
below the truth ; as if the writers could not dwell with 
satisfaction on the details of a conflict between fellow- 
countrymen. Americans, (so it was stated,) had no 
quarrel with their sovereign, whose person, family, and 
crown they were as willing to defend as ever. But 
they would face death rather than tamely submit to the 
persecutions of a cruel ministry, and looked forward 
with assured hope to the time when, in a constitutional 
connection with the mother-country, Englishmen on 
both sides of the Atlantic would live, always and all 
together, as one free, united, and happy people. 

Captain Derby of Salem was commissioned to fit out 
his ship as a packet ; and the document was committed 



to his charge, with orders to deliver it into the hands 
of the Agent for Massachusetts in England. On the 
twenty-ninth of May, 1775, the leading London news- 
papers, which then appeared only three times a week, 
published the story in a special issue ; and it was repro- 
duced by the provincial journals as fast as the mail bags 
could be carried through the island. 

The ministers, who were as yet without information, 
sent up and down the City in search of Captain Derby ; 
but he was hard to find, and, when found, he would say 
nothing. Lord Dartmouth was deeply affected by the 
intelligence, and could not bear to discuss it. Governor 
Hutchinson in vain insisted that the paper was inspired 
by Adams ; that the master of the ship belonged to 
** one of the most incendiary families;" and that 
General Gage, when he came to be heard, would put a 
very different complexion upon the matter. Dartmouth 
had seen the colonists on their best side, and knew them 
for men most unlikely to invent and to set afloat an 
offensive and humiliating tale which a few hours, or at 
latest a few days, would prove to be unfounded. 

A sloop bringing the official despatches had started 
four days before Captain Derby, and arrived eleven 
days behind him. The account of the affair in the 
** London Gazette," when read by itself, was not of a 
very alarming character. It was admitted that the 
British force had retired, and that before and during 
the retreat they had been annoyed by rebel sharp- 
shooters. Several of the regulars had been killed and 
wounded in one place, and some few in another. The 
officers had distinguished themselves, and the men had 
behaved with their customary intrepidity. Gage had 
his own way of putting a case ; but the traditions of 
honesty which govern our War Office are sternly re- 
gardless of a commander's susceptibilities. The return 
of losses, faithfully and minutely presented to the pub- 
lic, showed that the fighting had been very serious. As 
for the general military result of the whole proceeding, 
it was confessed that the Northern Colonies had risen 


in arms, and that Boston was closely invested by a force 
of insurgents three times the size of the royal garrison. 
On the twenty-fifth of July came the story of Bunker's 
Hill. This time there was a victory, and, according to 
the text of Gage's despatches, a victory without a draw- 
back. Nothing was said about the attacks which had 
failed ; and yet those failures, retrieved as they were, 
signally enhanced the credit of our arms. In his report 
of Lexington the general had coolly taken it for granted 
that the loss of the Americans was much greater than 
our own : a groundless assumption, which the authori- 
ties at home had the good sense to keep out of the 
Gazette. But at Bunker's Hill the field remained in his 
own possession, and the slain lay there for everyone to 
count ; and so he fell back upon the theory that during 
the action the colonists had been busily employed in 
carrying off their dead friends and burying them in 
holes. There is no stronger proof of the military 
quality of our race than the disgust which that deplora- 
ble excuse for not having killed enough of the enemy 
has always excited even among our civilians. It is 
the way of our people to measure the importance of 
an engagement by its practical consequences, and to 
regard the statistics of the adversary's loss as the 
adversary's own concern.^ Every reader of the news- 
papers was well aware that the circuit of the American 
lines was still untouched ; that the battle had resulted 
in the occupation of a small peninsula which hitherto 
had been no-man's land ; and that the acquisition was 
purchased by a great slaughter of British soldiers, and 

^ The dignified attitude of a fine soldier with regard to this question is 
exemplified in Napier's account of the first battle of Sauroren. It was the 
turning point of the nine terrible days in the Pyrenees, and a conflict 
which Lord Wellington, fresh from the fight, with homely emphasis called 
bludgeon work. " Two generals and eighteen hundred men had been 
killed or wounded on the French side, following their official reports ; a 
number far below the estimate made at the time by the allies, whose loss 
amounted to two thousand six hundred. The numbers actually engaged 
were of French twenty-five thousand, of the allies twelve thousand ; and, 
if the strength of the latter's position did not save them from the greater 
loss, their steadfast courage is more to be admired." 


something very like a massacre of British officers. 
Private letters from the army showed that old cam- 
paigners did not under-rate the cost, or exaggerate the 
value, of the triumph which they had won. The colo- 
nel who led the Light Infantry companies against the 
rail-fence, and for a marvel had not been shot, informed 
his friends at home that the rebels had behaved beyond 
any idea which he could ever have formed of them, and 
predicted that every inch of ground still remaining to be 
conquered would be stiffly disputed. *'We have lost," 
he said, '* a great number of our officers ; I am told, 
above eighty killed and wounded ; a great smash by 
such miscreants."^ In the interior circle of the Minis- 
try there were no illusions. William Eden, a young 
politician just on the eve of being taken into office, wrote 
to Lord North on the third of August : " We certainly 
are victorious ; but if we have eight more such victories 
there will be nobody left to bring the news of them."^ 

No intelligence more unexpected, or more visibly 
and inevitably fraught with coming evil, ever reached 
this country. The spirit in which it was accepted was 
honourable to our ancestors. There were few truer 
patriots among them than John Wesley and Horace Wal- 
pole; and they both sadly acknowledged Great Britain's 
responsibility for an event which they viewed as the 
common calamity of the entire British race. Walpole 
had been born and nurtured amidst the stable and quiet 
prosperity which the nation enjoyed under his father's 
rule, and he had witnessed the conquests and glories of 
Lord Chatham. He now, after the break of a month in 
his correspondence with Sir Horace Mann at Florence, 
took up his pen unwillingly, since he had nothing pleas- 
ant to tell. *' Can the events of a civil war be welcome 
news ? One must be deeply embarked on one side or 
the other, if one ever rejoices. They who wish well to 
the whole can have but one cheerful moment, which is 
that of peace, — a moment that seems at a great dia- 

^ Historieal Manuscripts Commission : Eleventh Report, Appendix, 
Part V. ^A iukland Manuscripts. 


tance. During the first part of my life all was peace 
and happiness. The middle was a scene of triumph. 
I am sorry to think the last volume so likely to resemble 
a considerable part of our story. Who can wish to have 
lived during the wars of York and Lancaster, or from 
1641 to 1660.?" 

Walpole, even while he sate in Parliament, confined 
himself to the functions of an observer, and, so far as 
his own exertions were concerned, allowed public affairs 
to take their own course ; but John Wesley was one of 
those who could not be tranquil until he had cleared his 
conscience. He addressed the prime minister in a 
memorial, of remarkable ability, couched in the form of 
a private letter. It was the production of a statesman, 
and of a prophet likewise ; for the paper is dated two 
days before the battle of Bunker's Hill. " I am a high 
churchman," (so he told Lord North,) **the son of a 
high churchman, bred up since my childhood in the 
highest notions of passive obedience and non-resistance. 
And yet I cannot avoid thinking, if I think at all, that 
an oppressed people asked for nothing more than their 
legal rights, in the most modest and inoffensive manner 
that the nature of the thing would allow. But, waiving 
all considerations of right and wrong, I ask, is it com- 
mon sense to use force towards the Americans } These 
men will not be frightened. They are as strong men as 
you. They are as valiant as you, if not more abundantly 
valiant, for they are one and all enthusiasts for liberty." 

Wesley gave North the benefit of his own personal 
knowledge of America, revived and supplemented as it 
was by frequent communication with the colonies, where 
he had a substantial and rapidly increasing body of re- 
ligious adherents. He warned the prime minister to 
beware of those who spoke soft words, and who dwelt 
on the circumstance that the colonists were divided 
among themselves. ** No, my lord," he said, " they are 
terribly united ; not in New England only, but down as 
low as the Jerseys and Pennsylvania. The bulk of the 
people are so united, that to speak a word in favour of 


the present English measures would almost endanger a 
man's life. Those who informed me of this are no 
sycophants ; they say nothing to curry favour ; they 
have nothing to gain or lose by me." And then the 
famous preacher, who was such a master of condensa- 
tion, shortly and frankly exposed the difficulties of a 
war conducted across a vast ocean, and with Europe 
hostile. It is impossible to read that plain and forcible 
statement without reflecting on the lamentable fact that 
the middle class of citizens, to which Wesley belonged, 
was to all intents and purposes excluded from the 
higher administration of the country. 

The most important paragraph in Wesley's letter 
contained his description of the temper and the tone 
which prevailed among the great mass of the common 
people throughout the kingdom. His remarks were 
not the carpings of a political opponent. Wesley was 
no ordinary supporter of the Government. He was 
soon to give as singular a proof as man ever gave that 
his partisanship knew no limits when the King and the 
King's ministers stood in need of a defender. Still less 
did his conclusions about the trend of popular opinion 
proceed from slight or hasty observation ; for he was 
intimately acquainted with Ireland and Scotland, and 
England he knew as a benevolent and active-bodied 
country gentleman knows his paternal estate. He had 
already for five-and-thirty years been traversing the 
land from Berwick to Penzance, and from Tenby to 
Colchester ; going everywhere on horseback, and read- 
ing as he rode, in accordance with his comfortable 
theory that safety for an equestrian lies in a loose rein ; 
but keeping his eyes and ears open for anything that 
was worth his notice. With him one day told another, 
and one night, (and short nights they were,) certified 
another. On Monday the seventeenth of June, 1782, 
he preached in the morning at Rothbury in Northum- 
berland; rode in sultry heat twelve miles southward, 
over a road which still retains some of its terrors, and 
preached again at noon in front of a solitary cottage ; 


and then, after travelling twenty miles more, he de- 
livered his third sermon to an immense multitude, hard 
by the old Priory at Hexham. That was how he spent 
his seventy-ninth birthday, when he was already con- 
scious that he was beginning to grow old. But in 1775 
he was in all the vigour and energy of three score 
years and twelve ; and, if anyone had special oppor- 
tunities of ascertaining what homely and unprivileged 
people all the country over were thinking and saying 
among themselves, it was John Wesley, and no other. 
After commenting to Lord North on the defenceless 
state of Great Britain, and the threatening attitude of 
foreign powers, Wesley went on to say that the most 
dangerous enemies of the Government were those of 
their own household. He had conversed, (so he 
claimed,) more freely, and with more persons of every 
denomination, than anyone else in the three kingdoms ; 
he was familiar with the general disposition of the 
people, — English, Scotch, and Irish, — and he knew 
for certain that a large majority were bitterly angry 
and profoundly disaffected.^ 

Two months afterwards Lord Dartmouth had his 
turn, and received a letter which was a striking ex- 
ample of the truth that there is no speaking so plain 
as between like and like. Great man as he was, the 
Secretary of State held religious opinions which placed 
him within the circle of those disciples whom Wesley, 
when he saw occasion for it, was in the habit of rebuk- 
ing very roundly. The Cabinet had got reports to the 
effect that trade was flourishing, and that the popula- 
tion was well employed and well satisfied. The ex- 
pression of Dartmouth's innocent gratification over the 
intelligence had come round to Wesley, who wrote to 
his friend as follows : " Sir, there cannot be a more 
notorious falsehood than has been palmed upon the 
Administration for truth. In every part of England 
where I have been, (and I have been East, West, North, 

^ The Life and Times of the Rev^. John Wesley y by the Rev. L. Tyerman : 
Vol. III., pages I97-2CX). 


and South within these two years,) trade is exceedingly 
decayed, and thousands of people are quite unemployed. 
I except three or four manufacturing towns, which 
have suffered less than others. I aver that the people 
in general, all over the nation, are so far from being 
well satisfied that they are far more deeply dissatisfied 
than they appear to have been even a year or two 
before the Great Rebellion, and far more dangerously 
dissatisfied. The bulk of the people in every city, 
town, and village where I have been do not so much 
aim at ministry, but at the King himself. They heartily 
despise his Majesty, and hate him with a perfect hatred. 
It is as much as ever I can do, and sometimes more 
than I can do, to keep this plague from infecting my 
own friends ; and nineteen out of twenty to whom I 
speak in defence of the King seem never to have heard 
a word spoken for him before. I wonder what wretches 
they are who abuse the credulity of the ministry by 
those florid accounts." ^ 

Such, according to a competent judge who disliked 
the conclusions to which he found himself driven, was 
the feehng in Great Britain when the American Revo- 
lution began. The condition of opinion that prevailed 
among the commonalty of England, by which Wesley 
was so painfully impressed, did not fill a large space 
in the thoughts of the political actors of the day. Cabi- 
net Ministers, — and, during the earlier years of the 
war, the statesmen of the Opposition too, — made little 
account of the tradesmen, and yeomen, and small manu- 
facturers who gave bed and board to an itinerant 
Methodist preacher ; and still less of the mill-hands and 
colliers who, year by year, listened to his sermons with 
growing respect and in ever larger numbers. Those 
were not the sort of people who raised and upset gov- 
ernments. The voteless multitude which stood, row 
behind row, drinking in John Wesley's message in 
the green amphitheatre at St. Ives, outnumbered many 

1 Historical Manuscripts Commission : Fifteenth Report, Appendix, 
Part I. 


times the aggregate constituencies of all those Cornish 
villages which between them sent forty-two members to 
Westminster. Even the solid business-men of the coun- 
ties, freeholders as they were, each of chem possessed but 
the three hundredth, or four hundredth, part of the 
political power exercised by the burgage-holder of a 
close borough, or the Councilman of a Corporation 
which negotiated parliamentary elections in the silence 
and privacy of their town-hall. Thoughtful and pa- 
triotic citizens of the middle and lower classes were dis- 
heartened by a sense of their own powerlessness. They 
were disheartened, but gravely displeased ; and their 
displeasure was all the more ominous because it could 
not be favourably affected by a circumstance which in 
this country, ever since 1832, has mitigated, and often 
extinguished, political exasperation. 

It may be doubted whether any Cabinet, which has 
once completely lost the confidence of the nation, ever 
recovers reputation during its tenure of office. But in 
the course of the last two generations few serious public 
evils have resulted from the unpopularity of Govern- 
ments, because, when a Government has become un- 
popular, its fall is only a question of a session or two at 
the longest. In 1775, however, the discredit and dislike 
under which the administration suffered were of old 
date; but there had been no real change of ministry. 
For ten years past Secretaries of State, and even First 
Lords of the Treasury, had been installed and ejected, 
and thrust up-stairs and down-stairs ; but, whoever 
might be left out or put out, the King and the King's 
friends had always been in. During that period elec- 
toral rights had been trodden under foot ; free discus- 
sion had been treated as a crime; venality had spread fast, 
and in alarming volume, through every department of the 
state ; and a singular indifference had been exhibited 
by rulers to the sentiments and opinions of the ruled. 
The reason was not far to seek. Court favour had come 
to be the one sure way of obtaining and holding those 
honours which ought to be at the disposal of the people. 


Public men knew only too well that, if they opposed 
the faction which pulled the hidden strings of politics, 
they soon lost all opportunity of serving the Crown. 
If they submitted to that faction, they lost the respect 
of their country.^ In the finest piece which ever came 
from under his pen Burke pronounced this circumstance, 
and this only, to be the cause of what as long back as 
1770 he called the Present Discontents. No remedy 
had been applied; and in the year 1775 they were the 
present discontents still, with sharpness added. In the 
May of that year John Wesley solemnly warned Lord 
North that the bulk of the population were effectually 
cured of all love and reverence for the King and 
his Ministry, that they were ripe for open rebellion, and 
that they wanted nothing but a leader. The prediction 
was only partially verified ; for our country had the 
same good fortune which has attended her at more than 
one great crisis of her history. A leader, hailing from 
a quarter whence he was least expected, successfully 
brought her people not into open rebellion, but into 
constitutional resistance to that unconstitutional influ- 
ence which began by corrupting the parliament, and 
ended by half ruining the nation. 

In the summer of 1775 Charles Fox was not yet in a 
position to proclaim a general crusade against that sys- 
tem of personal government the baleful foundation of 
which his own father had done so much to lay. But, 
with or without a leader, the mood of the people por- 
tended ill for a ministry, which was already face to face 
with a colonial rebellion, and was pursuing a policy 
almost certain to result, sooner or later, in a whole hand- 
ful of foreign wars. It was a moment of peril to the 
Cabinet, and a day of possible salvation for the empire. 
On the twenty-third of August Burke wrote thus to 
Lord Rockingham : ** The hinge between war and 
peace is a dangerous juncture to ministers; but a 

1 Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents. The works of 
Edmund Burke ; edition of 1837, pages 142 and 149 of Vol. I. 


determined state of the one or the other is a pretty safe 
position. When their cause, however absurdly, is made 
the cause of the nation, the popular cry will be with 
them. The style will be, that their hands must be 
strengthened by an universal confidence. When that 
cry is once raised, the puny voice of reason will not be 
heard." Sandwich and North knew the situation every 
bit as well as Burke, and a great deal better than the 
virtuous and diffident Whig nobleman whom Burke was 
in vain inciting to energetic action. The ministers 
exerted themselves to tide over the next few months 
with an appearance, at any rate, of having the country 
behind them. A Loyal Address, calling upon the Crown 
to suppress the rebels, and reflecting with severity upon 
their aiders and abettors in the British Parliament, was 
welcomed, (and, if need was, invited,) from any com- 
munity which contained enough people of weight and 
standing who were willing to sign it. 

The scheme obtained a certain measure of success ; 
but it was not much to the taste of the monarch. A 
writer, who has mastered his case, remarks that the 
capacity of George the Third embraced the arts of ob- 
taining power, but that our history can hardly produce 
a sovereign less capable of governing an empire ; ^ and 
the description is correct in all particulars. The gain- 
ing and keeping of political influence was the King's 
special province ; and in that department of public 
affairs he knew all which was worth knowing. He 
thoroughly understood the conditions under which he 
pursued the central object of his existence. He held 
that petitions, addresses, associations of freeholders, and 
open meetings in shire-towns, were the weapons of a 
popular opposition, which an arbitrary minister would 
do well to abstain from handling. He instinctively fore- 
saw the time when the machinery of a political propa- 
ganda would be set in motion with formidable results to 
the cause which he had at heart. " It is impossible," he 

^ Page xiv of Sir William Anson's preface to the Autobiography of the 
Third Duke of Grafton : London, 1898. 


wrote to North, " to draw up a more dutiful and affec 
tionate address than the one from the town of Man- 
chester, which really gives me pleasure, as it comes 
unsolicited. As you seem desirous that this spirit should 
be encouraged I certainly will not object to it; though 
by fatal experience I am aware that they will occa- 
sion counter-petitions." His Majesty proceeded to indi- 
cate that, if the nobility and gentry of property, in their 
respective counties, would add half a guinea to the 
bounty for recruits to fill the regiments destined for 
America, they would be doing at least as real a service 
as by affixing their signatures to Loyal Addresses, how- 
ever bravely worded. 

The Manchester Address was said to have emanated 
from old Jacobites whom the King had converted into 
Hanoverians by his adoption of the Stuart principles 
and processes. Mason, in an epigram poor enough to 
have been written by the Poet Laureate, hinted that the 
signatures had been paid for by the Court. But the 
King asserted the contrary ; and, when George the Third 
stated anything as a matter of fact, and not of opinion, 
a fact it was. Other towns, and several counties, imi- 
tated the example of Manchester ; but the more impor- 
tant communities were intractable, or silent, or spoke 
with divided voice. No Address could be obtained from 
Edinburgh or Glasgow. The Guild of Merchants in 
Dublin thanked those Peers who had opposed the re- 
straint of liberty in America; and their view was sup- 
ported and enforced by five hundred leading citizens of 
Cork, who were Protestants to a man. The King's 
apprehensions of the danger involved in an appeal to 
public opinion were amply justified. Wherever one 
party pronounced itself, the other accepted the challenge. 
The Common Council of London, sincerely anxious for 
peace, waited on His Majesty with a Petition carefully 
weeded of all factious and disrespectful phrases, and 
implored him to grant the colonists a breathing-space, 
and an opportunity for tendering proposals of accom- 
modation. A large number of gentlemen and traders 


in the City of London, — unwilling to be represented 
in matters political by any municipal body, however 
ancient and dignified, — expressed disapprobation and 
abhorrence of the proceedings of some among the Ameri- 
can colonies ; and thereupon a still larger number of the 
same class in the same city protested that they, for their 
part, disapproved and abhorred the measures of the 
Government. The Middlesex Justices petitioned deco- 
rously in favour of war, and the Middlesex freeholders 
noisily and somewhat confusedly against it. A Loyal 
Address from the Bristol Corporation was at once 
answered by a Loyal Remonstrance from near a thousand 
Bristol merchants. In one county the policy of the 
Cabinet was endorsed by two hundred among the 
inhabitants, and condemned by nineteen hundred, with 
the names of two Dukes at the head of the signatures. 
A less uncertain sound proceeded from some other quar- 
ters. The first Battalion of Devonshire militia, arguing 
by platoons, defended the course taken by Ministers, 
and denounced the manoeuvres of the Opposition. The 
University of Oxford was not less emphatic on the same 
side. Burke complained in the House of Commons that 
a body of learned and religious people, whose vocation, 
(if they could be brought to recognise it,) was to instruct 
and train the young, should rush into an intricate political 
controversy, and recommend a violent policy with extreme 
intemperance of language. He had himself, (he said,) 
a son at Oxford ; and he resented that son being told 
by grave men that his father was an abettor of rebels. 

The sister University was not so amenable as Oxford 
to the seductions of the Ministry. Cambridge Whigs 
had no love for the clique of London wirepullers which 
had provided them with a Chancellor in the person of 
the Duke of Grafton, while he was still in the mire of a 
famous scandal ; and which very nearly contrived to 
force the Earl of Sandwich upon them as their High 
Steward. While resisting the invasions directed against 
the honour of the University they had learned how to 
organise and employ their forces; and they now put 


their experience to use in defence of political tenets 
with which, as they proudly claimed, that University 
had long been identified. Prominent among them was 
Doctor Richard Watson, the Regius Professor of Divin- 
ity; who, on Restoration day in the year 1776, had 
courage to preach before the Heads of Colleges a sermon 
vindicating the principles of the Great Revolution. The 
courtiers of a King, who derived his title from that 
Revolution, condemned the sermon as treasonable ; but 
Dunning sagely remarked that it contained just such 
treason as ought to be preached once a month at St. 
James's. Doctor Watson now stoutly refused to call 
upon the Government to draw the sword on what he 
regarded as the wrong side of a constitutional quarrel ; 
and he did not stand alone in his refusal. Lord Rock- 
ingham, stirred at last, wrote to testify his indignation 
at ** the Whig University of Cambridge being called 
upon to play the second fiddle to the Tory University 
of Oxford " in so lamentable a concert. One of the 
Cavendishes, — glad to take any amount of trouble to 
associate himself with the great memories of 1688, — 
travelled to Cambridge to vote, and brought all the help 
he could. But other eminent members of the Opposi- 
tion hesitated as to the propriety of " going down, as it 
were by surprise, to prevent what may be the sense of 
the resident persons in the University." There were 
no such scruples in the opposite camp. " The Tories," 
Doctor Watson reported, " beat us by eight votes in the 
Whitehood house. They owe their victory to the min- 
isterial troops which were poured in from the Admiralty 
and Treasury beyond expectation." So close a poll was 
no great triumph for Government at a time when the 
vast majority of residents at the University were in holy 
orders ; when promotion in the Church was the recog- 
nised reward of party services ; and when the clergy, 
as Doctor Watson significantly observed, could hardly 
escape having a professional bias to support the powers 
that were, be they what they might.^ 

1 Doctor Watson to Lord Rockingham; Nov. 25, 1775. 


The Ministry had selected their own method for elic- 
iting the expression of public opinion ; and they had 
consulted the classes from whom they had most reason 
to expect a favourable response. Even so, it was im- 
possible to flatter themselves that the nation accepted 
their policy with unanimity, or anything near it. The 
responsibility which lay upon the rulers of the country 
was exceptionally grave ; because feeling in the country 
was so nearly balanced that the executive Government, 
with the enormous influence then at its command, could 
easily and effectively turn the scale in the direction 
either of implacable repression or of patient concilia- 
tion. Lord North himself, at every stage of the pro- 
tracted business, hated war as cordially as did the leaders 
of the Opposition ; and he had far stronger personal 
motives than any of them to incline him towards pacific 
courses. His tranquillity of mind, and his fair reputa- 
tion in the history of his country, were both at stake ; 
and seldom indeed had the chief of any Cabinet been less 
in love with the task on which he was engaged. His 
outward bearing was described in a letter written be- 
tween the arrival in England of the tidings about Lex- 
ington and of the tidings about Bunker's Hill. " His 
Lordship dined yesterday according to annual custom 
with the West India merchants, upon which occasion he 
generally affects to be joyous ; but it was remarked that 
he was unusually dull." ^ North, however, served a 
master who was his own prime minister, and whose sen- 
sations at any given moment were more important 
than those of all his councillors together. " Nothing," 
wrote Burke, " can equal the ease, composure, and even 
gaiety of the great disposer of all in this lower orb. It 
is too much, if not real, for the most perfect King- 
craft." 2 There was no affectation about George the 
Third's high spirits. He felt the joy of a strong man 
who sees his work plain before him. Profoundly dis- 
pleased with the Bostonians, and with their sympa- 

1 American Archives^ Letter from London, July I, 177$. 
* Burke to Rockingham; Broad Sanctuary, Aug. 4, 1775. 


thisers in America, he looked upon himself as commis- 
sioned by Providence to punish them : and he was fully 
persuaded that he would be favoured in the undertaking. 
** I am not apt," he told Lord Dartmouth, ** to be over- 
sanguine ; but I cannot help being of opinion that with 
firmness and perseverance America will be brought to 
submission. If not, old England will, though perhaps 
not appear so formidable in the eyes of Europe as at 
other periods, but yet wall be able to make her rebel- 
lious children rue the hour that they cast off obedience. 
America must be a colony of England, or treated as 
enemy." ^ The construction of these sentences might 
be awkward ; but their meaning was plain enough. The 
King thought it his duty, if he could, to re-conquer 
America ; and at the worst he was resolved, in case she 
became independent, to leave her in such a condition of 
ruin and exhaustion that she would, for many years to 
come, be no great loss or menace to the British Empire. 
Anger, from first to last, had played a prominent part 
in determining the action of Great Britain. The policy 
adopted by the Court, the Ministry, and the Parliamen- 
tary Majority was so indefensible on the side of pru- 
dence and expediency that its authors were driven to 
assume high moral ground, and to represent themselves 
to the world as the instruments of justice, bound by an 
obligation to inflict merited correction upon an erring 
colony. A curious tribute to their point of view has 
been paid of late years by ingenious writers in the 
United States, who have raised a protest against the 
spirit and the style in which the story of their Revolu- 
tion has too often been told. Under the impulse of a 
wholesome reaction against the inflated panegyric, and 
overloaded denunciation, which in past days have formed 
the stock in trade of too many American chroniclers, 
they especially insist on bringing to a test the estimation 
in which the heroes of that Revolution have been popu- 
larly held. The biographies of those heroes, it is con- 
tended, were to a large degree legends ; the best of them 

1 The King to Lord Dartmouth; Kew, June lo, 1775. 


were human, and the worst very bad indeed ; and from 
these premises the conclusion has been deduced that 
George the Third and his Cabinet could not have been 
so greatly in the wrong. Samuel Adams, we are told, 
showed himself unscrupulous as to the means which he 
employed in the pursuit of public ends; John Adams 
was vain and sensitive; Arthur Lee, when an envoy 
from Congress in Paris, insinuated that his colleague 
Silas Deane was a rascal, and Deane openly said the 
same of Lee, while Franklin distrusted and disliked 
them both ; the merchants of Boston were smugglers, 
the mob was ruffianly, and throughout New England 
no serious efforts were made by the more respectable 
citizens to exact retribution for violence and cruelty 
committed against partisans of the Crown. All this may 
be valuable history. It may all be worth telling. It is 
quite in place as an explanation of the sentiments 
excited in the British Parliament by the transactions in 
America ; but as an argument for or against the wisdom 
of the British policy it is of no account at all. The 
same argument had been used to defend the course pur- 
sued by Parliament in the matter of Wilkes and his 
constituency. The Ministerial case, (as Burke wrote 
in 1770,) was that the P^nglish had a very good govern- 
ment, but were a very bad people; that with a malig- 
nant insanity they opposed wise measures expressly 
designed to promote their peace and prosperity ; and 
that the disorders which convulsed the State had been 
manufactured by a few sorry libellers and designing 
politicians, without virtue, parts, or character. Very 
perverse indeed, (so Burke admitted with melancholy 
irony,) must be the disposition of that people among 
whom such a disturbance ccnild be excited by such 
means. " We seem," he said, " to be driven to absolute 
despair; for we have no other materials to work upon 
but those out of which God has been pleased to form 
the inhabitants of this island." ^ 

' This line of reasoning is flevelope'l in the opening paragra[>h of 
Thoughts on the Cause of tfie Present Discontents. 



The inherent wickedness of the governed has been in 
all ages a plea for misgovernment ; and the statement 
of that plea by such a pen as Burke's is its refutation. 
The inhabitants of New England and of Old England 
were made out of much the same materials ; and, the colo- 
nists being what they were, if certain known steps were 
taken, certain inevitable results were bound to follow. 
The question to be determined at successive points of 
the American controversy was in every case a clear and 
simple issue. Whether Boston should be subjected to 
a military occupation ; whether the tea-duty was to be 
retained or removed ; whether the Port Bill was to be 
passed, and the Charter of Massachusetts broken ; 
whether the petitions and remonstrances from the first 
Congress were to be respectfully considered or con- 
temptuously thrown aside ; — were problems demanding 
nothing beyond good sense and good feeling for their 
right solution. There would indeed have been some 
shadow of palliation for the action of the Ministry and 
of their followers if, at the time, they had been insuffi- 
ciently forewarned what the consequences of that action 
were sure to be. But, as it was, sagacious statesmen 
in both houses of Parliament, — Lord Chatham and 
Lord Camden, the Duke of Richmond and Lord Shel- 
burne, Burke, Conway, and Dunning, — with pertinacity 
and sincerity, and from the fullness of knowledge, never 
wearied of pleading in favour of reason and moderation. 
The same lesson was every second morning repeated to 
the town by vigorous well-informed journalists whose 
writings had a wide circulation. But the Ministerialists 
could not be forced to read newspapers ; and in the 
Commons they took care to hear as little as possible 
of that which did not meet their own views. The de- 
vice of shouting down discussion, perfected by practice 
during the heats of the Middlesex Election, was applied 
unsparingly throughout the earlier American debates 
to speakers who opposed the Government. It may well 
be doubted whether it is the function of history to 
find apologies for men who over and over again, at a 


very great crisis, adopted a wrong course in defiance 
of the opinion strongly held, and fearlessly urged, by 
many among the best and most far-seeing of their own 

One more chance for a peaceful solution of the dis- 
pute between England and America now presented it- 
self. The action of Congress in July 1775 was directed 
by a man the sincerity of whose desire to maintain the 
connection with the mother-country has never been 
questioned. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, the au- 
thor of the " Farmer's Letters," was a devoted subject 
of the Crown, proud to enthusiasm of his British citizen- 
ship. Already he had a difficult task in harmonising 
loyalty to his sovereign with loyalty to the Colonial 
cause. Samuel Adams, — acute, indefatigable, and 
strong-willed to a fault, — had convinced himself that 
the independence of America should be declared forth- 
with, and was working by pen and voice, in public 
debate and private conversation, to impress that convic- 
tion upon his colleagues at Philadelphia. The news of 
Bunker's Hill accentuated the opposition between the 
two statesmen. Adams saw in that event a final indica- 
tion that the controversy had been transferred to the 
battle-field ; and he was firmly persuaded that war could 
not be waged to a successful result by people who be- 
lieved, or even tried or pretended to believe, that they 
still owed allegiance to the titular chief of their adver- 
saries. Dickinson, on the other hand, regarded the 
slaughter of the seventeenth of June as a foretaste of 
the horrors which would signalise a protracted contest 
between two sections of a brave and obstinate race. He 
was ready to make great exertions, and large conces- 
sions, in order to prevent that dire calamity ; and his 
love and admiration for the rulers of Great Britain in- 
spired him with a confident anticipation that they would 
not be so wanting in prudence and humanity as to reject 
unconditionally the advances of the colonists. He urged 
that the King should be approached with all those forms 



of respectful submission which in his own case were not 
lip-worship; and his advice prevailed. He drafted a peti- 
tion beseeching that the royal authority might graciously 
be interposed to assuage mutual fears and jealousies ; 
requesting His Majesty himself, from his own wisdom, 
to direct the mode by which the applications of his faith- 
ful colonists might be improved into a happy and per- 
manent reconciliation ; and assuring him that they, on 
their part, retained too tender a regard for the kingdom 
from which they derived their origin to ask for such a 
settlement as might in any manner be inconsistent with 
her dignity and welfare. George the Third, as was well 
known, would not take official cognisance of any docu- 
ment issued on the authority of a body professing to 
represent the united provinces of America. It was ac- 
cordingly stated in a preamble that the petition ema- 
nated from certain of His Majesty's subjects in various 
colonies, (each of which was separately named,) who 
had taken advantage of having met together as dej)utics 
to a Congress in order to address His Majesty on behalf 
of themselves and their fellow-countrymen. 

The petition, adopted and signed on the eighth of 
July, was entrusted for presentation to Richard Penn, 
a grandson of William Penn by the second marriage. 
That celebrated man had died in England ; old, poor, 
hardly used, and as unhappy as his equable and coura- 
geous temperament, and his serene religious faith, 
would allow him to be. The distresses and embarrass- 
ments, which beset his later years, arose for the most 
part from the peculiarities of his immense but unde- 
fined position as the founder and proprietor of a state 
not inferior in extent and resources to more than one 
modern European kingdom. But after his death, in 
the course of two generations, the influence of his 
family in Pennsylvania became consolidated, and their 
worldly fortunes revived. One or another of them, 
when so minded, held the governorship of the prov- 
ince ; and at all times they had to the full such power 
and dignity as would be enjoyed by the members 


of a royal house in a country the whole of which was, 
or lately had been, Crown-land. Episcopalians of a 
mild type, they very generally retained the confidence 
and esteem of the Quakers, whose repugnance to war 
and rebellion they personally had the best of reasons 
for sharing. Their wealth was enormous ; and, — con- 
sisting, as it did, of quit-rents, mining royalties, ferry- 
rights, reserved lands, and all the other appurtenances 
of territorial monopoly, — it was certain not to survive 
a revolution. The placing a petition in such hands 
was in itself an announcement that the petitioners 
had the success of their prayer most earnestly at 

Penn discharged his mission with alacrity. He sailed 
at once ; the winds were favourable ; he arrived at 
Bristol on the thirteenth of August, and was the next 
day in London. But no minister would see him. A 
week elapsed before the Secretary for the Colonies 
consented to look at even a copy of the paper ; and it 
was not until September had begun that Dartmouth 
submitted it to the King. Three days afterwards Penn 
was told that, as the address had not been received on 
the throne, no answer would be given. But, in truth, a 
very sufficient answer had already been made public. 
On the twenty-third of August there appeared a Royal 
Proclamation inviting all subjects of the realm to give 
information against all persons in any manner or degree 
aiding or abetting those who now were in open arms 
and rebellion against the Government within any of 
the Colonies of North America, in order to bring to 
condign punishment the authors, perpetrators, and 
abettors of such traitorous designs.^ 

^ An American historian implies that the Proclamation of the twenty- 
third of August was prepared in answer to the petition, a copy of which had 
for forty-eight hours been in the hands of Ministers. But, writing on 
August 1 8, the King mentions the Proclamation as already drawn up. The 
world, however, which did not see behind the scenes, naturally supposed 
that the Proclamation was expressly issued to preclude the hope of a 
favourable reply to the petition, and thought that in any case the Gov- 
ernment might at least have waited until they were in official possession 
of what the Americans had to say. 


In accordance with custom the Proclamation was 
read at the Royal Exchange, at high noon. The 
Corporation did not withhold the services of the officer 
on whom the duty of reading fell. But he was sent 
forth on foot, without the Mace, and alone ; so that, by 
way of providing himself with at least one attendant, he 
came accompanied by the common crier. The touch 
of John Wilkes, then Lord Mayor, was easily recognised 
in the arrangement of the ceremony. Its shabbiness 
was much to the taste of the Londoners, who greeted 
the last sentence of the manifesto with a hiss. When 
such was the reception of the Proclamation in Cornhill 
and Threadneedle Street, it was not likely to be wel- 
comed in the State House of rhiladelphia. The con- 
sternation of Dickinson and his followers on hearing 
themselves denounced as traitors was deep and lasting. 
Sorely disappointed, Dickinson himself was not con- 
verted, or even shaken, in his view of the relations 
which should subsist between the Colonies and the 
Crown. He struggled manfully to retain in their 
allegiance both his native state, and the general 
body of the Provinces. His eff(jrts proved fruitless; 
and during the progress of the controversy his popu- 
larity among his countrymen, which had been very 
precious to him, entirely disappeared. lUit, though 
America rejected his advice, he still believed that she 
had justice on her side in her original quarrel with the 
British Parliament ; and he took service as a private 
soldier in the ranks of the Continental army. Dickinson 
had risked and lost much for the privilege of remaining 
a subject ; but the royal master, for whom the sacrifice 
was made, would not allow him to be anything but a rebel. 

Lord Stanhope, — a fair and exact historian, and a 
Tory who was proud of the name, — comments with grave 
severity on the treatment accorded to the American 
petition. Its courteous reception, he observes, might 
have averted the further growth of civil strife, and once 
more united together the two great branches of the 
British race. Its rejection, on the contrary, though Httle 


considered at the time in England, was never forgotten 
in America ; and was repeatedly and successfully em- 
ployed to confirm waverers in their resistance to the 
Crown, by reminding them that all the blood and all 
the guilt of the war must be charged to British and not 
to American counsels.^ 

George the Third clearly perceived that in the sum- 
mer of 1775 the critical period had come. He saw that 
whatever policy was then adopted could not afterwards 
be retraced, or even seriously modified ; and he laid 
down in no ignoble language what in his view that 
policy should be. '* I am certain," (so he had written 
in July,) "any other conduct but compelling obedience 
would be ruinous and culpable ; therefore no considera- 
tion could bring me to swerve from the present faith I 
think myself in duty bound to follow." The King did 
not attempt to deceive himself about the gravity of the 
enterprise which he had undertaken. Foreseeing that 
the struggle must be arduous, and might be long, he 
resolved that preparations for the forthcoming campaign 
should be taken strongly in hand from the first moment. 
Side by side with military business, he effected an im- 
portant change in the composition of his Ministry. He 
was dissatisfied with some of his principal servants ; and 
one of those servants was gravely dissatisfied with him. 
The Duke of Grafton had long been uneasy. He con- 
tinued to hold the Privy Seal because his sovereign urged 
him ; but he had never re-entered the Cabinet after he 
quitted it in January 1770 in consequence of having 
been over-ruled on the question of the tea-duty. George 
the Third, with genuine delicacy, expressed a wish that 
the ex-prime-minister should still be kept informed on 
all secret Government business ; and Grafton exchanged 
news freely with Lord Dartmouth, ''the only one," he 
said, ** among the King's confidential servants who had 

1 Lord Stanhope's History of England, chapter liii. John Jay, the 
first Chief Justice of the United States, used to say that, until the second 
petition of Congress in 1775 had been presented and ignored, he never 
heard any American, of any class or any description, express a wish for the 
independence of the Colonies. 


a true desire to see lenient means adopted towards the 
Colonies." The Duke now learned that Mr. Penn had 
come over from Philadelphia with a petition, and that 
no notice was to be taken of it by the Ministry. The 
effect produced on Grafton's mind is told at length in 
his Autobiography. It was evident, (he said,) to all 
considerate men that the connection of the two coun- 
tries hung on the reversal of that unfortunate decision. 
The day before the Petition was handed in he wrote to 
Lord North a letter suggesting that, when the Session 
opened, the Government should procure the intervention 
of Parliament in favour of an attempt at pacification. 
An Address might be moved in both Houses, praying 
His Majesty to order his generals to inform the rebel 
army that, in case the Colonies would depute persons 
to state to Parliament their wishes and expectations, no 
hostile steps would be taken on his part until the issue 
of the negotiation should be known. So gracious an 
offer, if accepted by Congress, might still be in time to 
restore a good understanding. If it was declined, the 
colonists would be obliged to confess that Great Britain 
was reluctant, though not afraid, to fight ; and our own 
people would respond to the demands of war with an 
assured conscience, and an enthusiasm which at present 
was not in existence,^ 

Grafton's letter remained unanswered for seven weeks ; 
and the reply, when at last it arrived, was unfavourable. 
He obtained an audience, and told George the Third in 
so many words that the Ministers, deluded themselves, 
were deluding His Majesty. "The King," the Duke 
said, " vouchsafed to debate the business much at large ; 
and appeared to be astonished when I answered earnestly, 
to his information that a large body of German troops 
was to join our forces, that His Majesty would find too 
late that twice that number would only increase the dis- 
grace, and never effect his purpose." Having made his 
protest in the Closet, he repeated it in the House of 
Lords with quiet and solemn emphasis. ** If my brother, 

^ Grafton's Autobiography , chapter viii. 


or my dearest friend," he said, "were to be affected by 
the vote I mean to give this evening, I could not pos- 
sibly resist the faithful discharge of my conscience and 
my duty." The next day the Duke was summoned to 
the Palace. On this occasion he was bidden to bring 
the Privy Seal with him ; and, when the interview was 
over, it remained on the King's table. George the Third 
thanked North, (who held Grafton's views about Amer- 
ica, but was not man enough to act on them,) for his 
handsome conduct when compared with the " shameful 
desertion " of others. The Crown had much to give ; 
but shame and self-respect were matters outside the 
range of its disposal. In early life, when Grafton him- 
self was at the head of the Government, he had learned 
by very cruel experience that there is no royal road to 

Two out of three Secretaries of State were, in the 
King's judgement, unequal to the requirements of the 
situation. Lord Dartmouth was too weak, as certainly 
he was too good, for the post which he held ; and Lord 
Rochford, in troubled times, was unfit for any post what- 
ever. Dartmouth was unwilHng to be shifted. He made 
difficulties, — not greater indeed than are ordinarily made 
on such occasions by the members of a Cabinet which is 
not very much afraid of its prime minister, — but suffi- 
cient to distress his sovereign, who could not bear to 
hurt him. At last he consented to accept the Privy 
Seal, in an hour propitious to his reputation and his 
happiness. Henceforward he had abundant leisure for 
those religious and benevolent undertakings which 
constituted his real vocation. His official duties were 
much what he pleased to make them. The Cabinet 
gladly turned over to him all the business for which he 
had an inclination, and especially such matters as brought 
the minister in charge of them into contact with a bishop. 
When local opinion in Birmingham was divided on the 
question of equipping the town with a licensed theatre, 
Dartmouth sate in judgement on the case. After hear- 
ing all that was to be said for and against the proposal, 


— and the arguments, though not perhaps in his eyes, 
were as comical as any farce that was likely to be repre- 
sented on the boards, — he decided to throw the weight 
of the Government into the scale opposed to the conces- 
sion. That was the sternest act of coercion for which he 
was thenceforward responsible. It was a very different 
thing from making arrangements to invade, burn, and 
devastate a land inhabited by people with whom he was 
in as close sympathy as with his countrymen at home. 
During the last five years of the war, (as far as the Par- 
liamentary History records,) he never opened his lips on 
the subject of America. His popularity in that country 
revived. Even those colonists, who hated the rest of 
the Cabinet, trusted and Hked him ; and he, in return, 
felt a pained and placid concern for their welfare, re- 
gretting only that they could not view their own interests 
in the same light as himself and his royal master. That 
master he now saw only on his best side ; while George 
the Third had always valued what was good in Dart- 
mouth, if indeed there was anything except good about 
him. When in the course of time the Government fell, 
and the separation between monarch and minister could 
no longer be averted, the King broke the news in a letter 
honourable to them both. *' I have ever esteemed Lord 
Dartmouth, since I have thoroughly known him, in 
another light than any of his companions in Ministry. 
What days has it pleased the Almighty to place me in, 
when Lord Dartmouth can be a man to be removed but 
at his own request ! But I cannot complain. I adore 
the will of Providence, and will ever resign myself obedi- 
ently to his will. My heart is too full to add more." ^ 

From Lord Rochford the King parted at once and 
finally. The retiring minister did not go empty-handed. 
His claim upon the Treasury, in George the Third's 
estimation, was quite irrespective of the actual condition, 
or the future prospects, of the national balances. Royal 
gratitude was never sparing towards a public servant 
who, at a pinch, had done his duty to the mind of his 
1 The King to the Earl of Dartmouth; March 27, 1782. 


sovereign ; and that, in a marked degree, was the case 
with Rochford. In January 1770 he had voted in the 
Cabinet against Grafton, and in favour of maintaining 
the tax on tea. Grafton now surrendered his place with 
no compensation except a quiet conscience, which he 
never again lost; but Rochford insisted on something 
much more substantial being settled upon him for life. 
** Though my finances," so George the Third wrote to 
Lord North, "are in a very disgraceful situation, yet, 
with the desire I have to make the situation you are in 
happy, I cannot require one minute's time for considera- 
tion, but most willingly consent to give Lord Rochford a 
pension of 2500/. per annum." Rochford was grateful. 
" This morning," he wrote on the tenth of November to 
the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, " I resigned the Seals : 
not with my own choice, but with my hearty concord- 
ance, as it contributes to an arrangement thought neces- 
sary for the King's affairs. I have, however, obtained a 
most honourable retreat; a very considerable pension 
for my life, and a promise from the King that he will 
confer the Garter upon me the first Chapter His Majesty 
holds. I venture so far to trespass upon your friendship 
as to beg your Lordship will give me a little sinecure 
place of about fifty or sixty pounds a year for an old 
servant that has lived with me thirty years. I have now 
no way of providing for him but by keeping him myself, 
which will be a great charge to me." "It is," (so he 
explained to the Irish Secretary,) " for our old friend 
my butler, who has poured you out many a glass of good 
Burgundy." And thus Rochford fell soft, and his butler 
likewise, who had so often helped his master's guests to 
fall soft before.^ 

One of the vacant offices was given to Lord Wey- 
mouth, who had resigned a Secretaryship of State five 
years before, for reasons which are still obscure. He 
left office in December 1770 during the difficulty which 
had arisen with Spain about the Falkland Islands ; and 
it was remarked at the time that he did not know how 

^ Harcourt Papers^ in the British Museum. 


to make a peace, and did not wish to make a war. But 
in 1775 the American war was already made; and the 
King had no intention whatever of allowing his Secre- 
taries of State to see whether they could make a peace. 
The Bedfords, now dominant in the Cabinet, could not 
be easy until they had Weymouth back among them. 
He was a Bedford, endowed largely with the personal 
and political attributes of the clan. When Weymouth 
was quite young, George the Second had said of him 
that he could not be a good kind of man, as he never 
kept company with any woman, and loved nothing but 
play and strong beer. He so far mended his ways as to 
take to wine ; and he could converse over it brilliantly and 
agreeably until that hour of the morning when the ban- 
quet had lost all resemblance to a feast of reason. Ut- 
terly ruined early in life, he was ill thought of even in 
circles whose rule of conduct was easy beyond the verge 
of laxity. To save him from his creditors, he was 
appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and received the 
money for his outfit ; but Ireland would not have him. 
The first, and perhaps the most important, of Weymouth's 
public services was to enable an English prime minister 
to ascertain the low-water mark of character which 
would qualify a nobleman for the occupation of Dublin 
Castle. He was now forty-one years old, and not likely 
to grow any worse. The King could endure Sandwich, 
and might reasonably be expected to put up with 
Weymouth, who at all events had one vice the less. In 
the House of Lords he generally spoke well, and always 
shortly. Those were his antecedents, and those were 
his titles to public employment. Weymouth was a 
wonderful personage to be added to a Government which 
professed to entertain the hope of winning back into 
loyalty all that was honest and respectable among the 
population of New England. 

The other in-coming minister was Lord George Ger- 
maine. As a rising soldier, while he still was called Lord 
George Sackville, he had seen hard service. His mihtary 
qualities had obtained high praise from two such judges 


of valour as General Wolfe and the Duke of Cumberland. 
He was shot in the breast at Fontenoy, having led his 
regiment so far within the enemy's position that his 
wound was dressed in Louis the Fifteenth's own tent. 
In much later days a noted Whig duellist warmly ac- 
knowledged that, in all the affairs in which he had been 
engaged, he had never met anybody who behaved better 
than Germaine. A man whose courage was conspicuous 
at thirty, and at five-and-fifty, could never have been 
anything but brave. It was under the influence, not of 
personal fear, but of other unworthy motives, that he 
made the mistake of his career at Minden.^ When in 
command of the cavalry during that battle he disobeyed 
an order which, to Ligonier or Granby, would have been 
more welcome than an offer of the Garter and ten thou- 
sand a year for life. He kept the British dragoons 
standing idle beside their horses while one after another 
of Prince Ferdinand's aides-de-camp in vain urged him 
to charge home and complete the victory which the 
British infantry had won. His punishment was exem- 
plary. He was dismissed the service. He was struck 
off the Privy Council. He lost his numerous employ- 
ments and rich endowments. At his own earnest request 
he was granted a court-martial, but was informed that, 
if sentenced to die, he would certainly be shot. He was 
found guilty of disobedience in presence of the enemy, 
and adjudged to be unfit to serve His Majesty in any 
military capacity whatever. George the Second con- 
firmed the sentence, and had it recorded in the order- 
book of every regiment in the army, accompanied by a 
warning that high birth, and great place, would not 

1 " It is difficult to believe that a Sackville wanted common courage. 
This Sackville fought duels with propriety ; in private life he was a surly, 
domineering kind of fellow, and had no appearance of wanting spirit. It 
is known, he did not love Duke Ferdinand ; far from it ! May not he have 
been of peculiarly sour humour that morning, the luckless fool; sulky 
against Ferdinand, and his * saddling at one o'clock ; ' sulky against 
himself, against the world and mankind ; and flabbily disinclined to heroic 
practices for the moment?" Carlyle's Frederick the Great: Book XIX. 
chapter iii. 


shelter an offender from censures worse than death to 
a man who had any sense of honour. So vast was the 
scandal, and so durable the memory of it, that it has 
ever since been a sort of sinister protection to Germaine's 
reputation. His connection with all those misfortunes 
which befel our arms during the war of the American 
Revolution is well nigh forgotten ; and he is remem- 
bered in military history principally, and almost ex- 
clusively, as the man who made " the great refusal " 
on the plains at Minden.^ 

^ Neither friend ncir ill-wisher ever thought of Ix)rfl Georpe Germaine 
apart from the central event of his career. In August 1775 ^••'•'^♦^n was 
writing to Holroytl on electioneering matters. Both of them knew Lord 
George intimately in society, and acted with him in politics; and yet, twice 
in the same letter, Gihhon referred to him under the nickname of " Minden." 

The identity of the Secretary of State with the commander of Prince 
Ferdinand's cavalry was sometimes mercifully concealed frt)m people who 
had not kept themselves abreast of recent changes in the peerage. A 
Crown living in the ncighbourhoofi of s<>me G(»vernment powtier-mills had 
chanced to fall vacant. It was said that a sprightly young divine, who had 
been selected to till it, waited upon Lord George Gt-rmaine, and told him 
that he was much obliged for the offer, but that he liked powder as little 
as Lord Cieorge Sackville. The story may be found in the corner of con- 
temporary magazines; but it bears the mark of having been manufactured 
at Brooks's. 



The effect which these appointments produced upon 
public opinion may be estimated by the judgement 
passed upon them by George Selwyn, who was an 
easy man of the world, and in this particular case 
the least harsh of critics. For he was a silent, obedient, 
and, (so far as he had convictions,) a convinced supporter 
of the Government, on whose continuance in office his 
own sinecures depended. " This new acquisition in each 
House," he wrote, " will have so many gross things said 
to them that I do not know what may follow from it. 
The talent of public speaking bears certainly a great 
price in this country ; and the strongest proof of it is 
that Ministers will move heaven and earth to get one 
of these glib orators on their side, in spite of the most 
odious or despicable character whatever." ^ When the 
posts were allotted, George the Third did not forget the 
past history of his most recent ministerial recruit. '* Lord 
George Germaine," he wrote to North, " cannot treat with 
the Continent." Germaine, accordingly, had the colonies; 
Lord Weymouth was replaced in the Southern Depart- 
ment, and entrusted with the diplomatic relations between 
Great Britain, and France and Spain ; while Lord Suffolk 
was retained in the Northern Department, where busi- 
ness was done with Germany. 

That business was now of a very delicate and special 

1 Letter from Selwyn to Lord Carlisle : Historical Manuscripts Com- 
mission; Fifteenth Report, Appendix, Part VI. The date suggested in the 
volume is February 1776: but internal evidence clearly indicates that the 
letter was written on the second of November, 1775. 



nature, and could not be entrusted to a personage whose 
name, when that name was Lord George Sackville, had 
been a byword in German miUtary circles. A civil war 
had already broken out ; foreign wars were only too sure 
to supervene ; and our armaments had been allowed to 
dwindle until the means of offence and defence were al- 
most entirely wanting. The bare facts and dates, with- 
out epithet or comment, sufficiently characterise the 
improvidence of the Ministry. When the Army and 
Navy Estimates were moved in December 1774, the 
seamen were reduced by four thousand, and the land 
forces were fixed at a number below eighteen thousand 
effective men. So it came to pass that in August 1775, 
before active operations had continued for a quarter of 
a year, the kingdom at home had been denuded of all 
but a few weak and scattered regiments ; and our only 
considerable organised body of troops was shut up in 
Boston. It was not the King's fault. His Majesty had 
long contended that the Peace establishment, in both the 
services, was far too low. Karly in the summer of 1775 
he had urged, and at last liad insisted, that exceptional 
efforts should be made to obtain a supply of men, and 
that recourse should be had to unusual sources. The 
examjile of Chatham in the Seven Years' War was re- 
membered and imitated ; and the clansmen of the Scot- 
tish Highlands were enlisted to fight in a cause that 
certainly was not Chatham's. 

The North of Scotland was a more promising recruit- 
ing-ground than ever ; for the full effect was now being 
felt of the process by which Highland chiefs, when their 
military power had been broken, converted themselves 
from feudal superiors into rack-renting landlords. After 
the rebellion of 1 745 had been suppressed the British Gov- 
ernment neglected a unique opportunity. Wise and hu- 
mane statesmen, of our famous Anglo-Indian type, would 
have seized the occasion for framing a just and compre- 
hensive land-settlement, under which all classes should 
receive their due. But, as itwas,theHighlandswere aban- 
doned to the mercy of the Court of Session at Edinburgh, 


which recognised the Chief as sole and absolute pro- 
prietor of the entire territory occupied by the clan. In 
1773, when Doctor Johnson was travelling through the 
Hebrides, he had watched with grave disapproval the 
consequences entailed upon the inhabitants of those 
regions by that fatal and one-sided policy. The chief- 
tains, (so Johnson learned,) had flattered themselves 
with golden dreams of much higher rents than could 
reasonably be paid.^ Those clansmen who were reck- 
less and improvident bid against each other in order to 
secure farms; while the industrious and the enterprising, 
who likewise were the most prudent, surrendered their 
old homes, and sought a career beyond the seas. The 
tacksmen, the flower of the tribe for the purposes both 
of peace and war, had been the hardest hit by the new 
system. Great numbers of them had emigrated to the 
colonies ; many others were on the eve of going ; and 
they were accompanied on their voyage by the most 
stout-hearted of their humbler neighbours, whose fathers 
their fathers had so often led into battle. Johnson in- 
dignantly exclaimed that a nobleman of France would 
never be permitted to force the French King's subjects 
out of the country. If these rapacious chieftains, (he 
declared,) resided in Normandy or Brittany, they would 
be admonished by a letter of the sort which, while the 
Bastille stood, their monarch was in the habit of send- 
ing to those who incurred his displeasure.^ And so it 
came about that when, in the autumn and winter of 
1775, troops were needed to suppress rebellion in the 
colonies, the best fighting men of Argyllshire and In- 

^ Conversation between Doctor Johnson and Donald M'Queen on the 
thirteenth of September, 1773. 

2 A hundred and thirteen years were still to elapse before the British 
Government, by methods more constitutional than a letire de cachet, took 
effective measures for restoring security and contentment to the agricultural 
population of the Highlands. The Act of 1886, which gave the Crofter 
an assured tenure upon payment of an equitable rent, was not seriously 
opposed either in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. This 
unanimity of Parliament, — always soft-hearted where the Highlander is 
in question, — conferred singular force and authority upon a healing measure 
which undid all that it still was practicable to undo of the wrongs of ages. 


verness-shire eagerly hailed the chance of winning by 
their swords a settlement in America more secure than 
that which their progenitors had held, by the tenure of 
the sword, in the valleys of their native Scotland. 

King George's call for soldiers met with a less lively 
response in other parts of his dominions. " Beating 
orders," as the phrase then ran, were sent to Ireland; 
and the poorer Catholics of Connaught and Munster 
were invited into the ranks. Hut it was a bad time for 
tempting Irish farmers away from their cabins, which 
were overflowing with unwonted plenty. The Dublin 
Government reported in October that agriculturists had 
never experienced so prosperous a year. " Corn of all 
kinds," wrote Lord Harcourt, '* and potatoes, the chief 
food of the people, are a drug. They are now sold in 
the North for fourpence a hundred-weight. They were 
never known at so cheap a rate before." ' Recruiting 
moved slowly in Ireland, and almost imperceptibly in 
England, where hardly any enthusiasm for the war 
existed among the classes from which soldiers were 
drawn. That enthusiasm was fainter in no one than 
in the man who stood at the summit of military adminis- 
tration. Lord Harrington disliked the measures adopted 
to procure recruits, and disbelieved in their efficacy. 
The King attributed the slackness and desj)ondency 
which prevailed at the War Office to the right cause. 
That department, left to hself, was not likely to pro- 
duce shining results when there was a minister at the 
head of the Army who disapproved of having a war at 
all, and thought that, if hostilities could not be avoided, 
they should be carried on exclusively by sea.^ Hut the 
master's vigour and high courage reinforced the deficien- 
cies of the servant. George the Third had all the family 
love of military details; he never spared himself or his 
carriage-horses ; he was always on the spot, or within 
a few miles of it ; and, if not actually in St. James's, 
he was ready at an hour's notice to come up from Kew, 

Harcourt Papers. 
* The King to North ; Kew, August 26, 1775. 



or, at furthest, from Windsor. Week after week, and 
year by year, Lord Barrington was complaining ; plead- 
ing weak health and a sore conscience ; and reminding 
the King that his resignation had been sent in months 
before, and that no notice had been taken of it. But 
all his protests were unheeded by his inexorable sov- 
ereign, who kept him in office against his will, and did 
very much the most important part of his work for 

A pressing concern of the Ministry was to make 
arrangements by which England's wealth might be 
used to hire foreigners for the purpose of fighting 
battles which Englishmen were not keen to fight them- 
selves. Sir Robert Gunning, our Envoy Extraordinary 
to Russia, was personally a favourite with the Empress ; 
and Catherine had conveyed to him an expression of 
her regret for the difficulties in which his Government 
was plunged. Gunning followed up what he assumed 
to be his advantage, and persuaded himself and his 
employers that twenty thousand disciplined Russian 
infantry, fully equipped, would sail for Canada as soon 
as the Baltic was open in the spring of the coming 
year. They were to serve, not as auxiliaries, but as a 
component part of the British army under the com- 
mand of a British general. Burke, who had long con- 
templated American freedom and prosperity with a 
sense of personal satisfaction, was shocked by the gro- 
tesque proposal. *' I am on thorns": he wrote. "I 
cannot, at my ease, see Russian barbarism let loose to 
waste the most beautiful object that ever appeared upon 
this globe." Gibbon, a cheerful cynic, familiarised by 
his studies of the Roman decadence with the idea of 
paying outlandish tribes to defend a civilised empire, 
took the matter more lightly. '* When the Russians 
arrive," so he asked his friend Mr. Holroyd, "if they 
refresh themselves in England or Ireland, will you go 
to see their camp } W^e have great hopes of getting 
a body of these barbarians. In consequence of some 
very plain advances, George with his own hand wrote 



a very polite epistle to sister Kitty, requesting her 
friendly assistance." But other potentates besides 
George the Third were getting letters written, and 
advice whispered, to the same august quarter. The 
story of the communications which were passing be- 
tween England and Russia soon became the common 
property of every Chancery in Europe; and still less 
was it a secret that the British Government had run 
short of soldiers. Lord Barrington with his own mouth 
had informed Monsieur de Guinos, the Erench Ambas- 
sador at St. James's, that England must take the field 
with three separate armies, marching respectively from 
New York, Boston, and Canada ; that those armies 
would between them demand not less than forty to 
fifty thousand men ; and that the country itself, at the 
very outside, could not j^roduce an active force of more 
than eighteen thousand rank and file.^ 

The Russian court was besieged by warnings and 
expostulations from the capital of every country which 
feared, or hated, or envied l^ritain. Erance was earnest 
and active, and Spain also : but the most effective and 
dexterous opposition came from Potsdam. Harris, our 
minister at Berlin, informed Lord Suffolk that the 
Empress of Russia, from the very first moment of the 
negotiations, had taken the King of Prussia into her 
confidence. Those negotiations, (it was added,) had 
been wrecked, not by official diplomacy, but through 
very influential agents indeed, — of the sort, it may be 
presumed, who during Catherine's widowhood were 
seldom wanting at St. Petersburg, — whom PVederic the 
Great had found means to secure to his own interests.^ 
In September 1775 Catherine, speaking, whether she 
was so or not, like a true friend of England, adjured 
Gunning to see that his royal master settled the dispute 
with America by peaceful methods. " You know," she 

^ Histoire de la Participation (U la France a P etablisiement des Atats 
Unis de PAmerique; par Henri Doniol. Tome Premier; /Vnncxes du 
chapitre vi. 

^ Decipher of Letter from Harris to Lord Suffolk, of December 1775. 


said, " that my situation has been full as embarrassing ; 
and, believe me, I did not rest my assurance of success 
upon one mode of action. There are moments when 
we must not be too rigorous." It was curious that such 
doctrines should be preached to a constitutional King 
of England by the autocrat of Russia. The wise coun- 
sel was neglected ; and some weeks afterwards Cather- 
ine gave her final answer in a letter flavoured by a 
sublime impertinence which might have been inspired 
by Frederic himself. There was, the Empress con- 
tended, an impropriety in employing her troops in 
another hemisphere, at the disposal of a foreign Gov- 
ernment, and at a distance removed from all corre- 
spondence with their own sovereign. Besides, (so she 
assured the King of England,) she had not only her 
own dignity to consider, but that of His Majesty also. 
It would be an ill compliment from her to him that she 
should consent to a course of action implying that he 
was one of those monarchs who could not put down 
their own rebellions. The King took the affront calmly, 
like the gentleman that he was. " The letter of the 
Empress," he wrote to his prime minister, ** is a clear 
refusal, and not in so genteel a manner as I should have 
thought might have been expected from her. She has 
not had the civility to answer in her own hand, and 
has thrown out some expressions that may be civil to a 
Russian ear, but certainly not to more civilised ones." 

Germany remained ; — the fruitful parent of strong 
men who had not yet been taught to reserve them- 
selves for occasions when they would be wanted to fight 
in defence of Germany's native interests. It required 
the terrible experiences of nearly forty more years 
before the Fatherland learned that lesson; and in 1775 
the smaller states were still recruiting-grounds for every 
ambitious ruler who had a design on the territory of his 
neighbour, and for every royal martinet who liked to 
see tall and sturdy Protestants in the front line of his 
show regiments. George the Third had a claim of loy- 
alty over one section of the German people. As Elector 


of Hanover he made to the King of England what he 
himself described as a loan of five battalions, who were 
sent to garrison Gibraltar and Minorca, and release an 
equivalent number of British troops for service in 
America. Our country, as always, did things hand- 
somely; and Hanover was no loser by the transaction. 
The whole force received British pay, which was on a 
much more generous scale than was fingered by the 
inmates of any barrack in Germany. The opportunity 
was taken of getting the British ta.\i)ayor to provide 
all ranks with a complete outfit, of which the officers 
in particular stood woefully in need; and a l^ritish 
Colonel, who knew something of the life on board a 
transport, was told off for the duty of fortifying their 
minds against the terrors of the voyage; because, as 
the Kuig remarked, though brave on shore, Continental 
forces feared the sea.^ 

Over and above the assistance which he drew from 
the regular military establishment of his hereditary 
dominions, George the Third took measures for collect- 
ing by voluntary enlistment a body of foreign troops 
for the service of the British Crown. Such a force, in 
the eighteenth century, was composed of very different 
materials from that King's Foreign Legion which took 
its share in the labours and glories of the Peninsula and 
of Waterloo. The soldiers of Baron Omptcda, who 
fought with intelligence and devotion for the common 
cause of Germany and of ICngland, rivalled in courage 
the soldiers of Hill and Picton, and maintained before 
the eyes of their British comrades a valuable example 
of discipline and personal conduct. But it was other- 
wise at the period of the American rebellion. The 
Continental system of enlistment, which passed finally 
away during the wars of the French Revolution, had 
spread misery and corruption far and wide throughout 
the humbler classes during the two generations which 
preceded its extinction. The baleful results of its influ- 
ence on army morals was analogous to the deterioration 
^ The King to North; Kew, August i and 4, 1775. 


of civil society by the institution of slave labour. In 
most cases the agents of the system were debauched 
and fraudulent, and not seldom infamous. The raco- 
letirs, which was the name by which those agents were 
called and loathed, pervaded Northern Europe in vari- 
ous disguises, scraping acquaintance with likely lads ; 
entrapping them across the frontier on false pretences ; 
stupefying them with drugged Hquor, or securing their 
persons by methods of hateful violence. Sometimes 
these worthies appeared in their proper dress and their 
true character, strutting in front of a tent at fair or 
market, with hat cocked and sword trailing, and the 
general air of a bully with whom the world was going 
well. They would harangue the peasants and appren- 
tices on the charms of colonial service, in regions where 
oranges and bananas and pomegranates might be had 
for the picking, and gold or diamonds for the stooping ; 
and they warned their hearers to beware of the preju- 
dices which parents and relatives entertained against 
the only career in which a young fellow of spirit was 
sure to acquire a fortune. 

Among the dupes whom they enticed and captured 
there were decent quiet men who made the best of their 
wretched lot, though they never became reconciled to 
it ; and in war-time the more wayward and turbulent 
natures found congenial excitement in the hazards of a 
campaign, and the hopes of plunder and promotion. 
But the greater number sank into moral ruin, and be- 
came worthless citizens, and dishonest and disreputable 
soldiers. Always, and especially during a long peace, 
Europe swarmed with a nomad population of merce- 
naries. The tramps and vagrants of military life, they 
would serve one month in Turin, and another at Munich, 
and the next at Stuttgart ; taking to the fields at the 
first opportunity which offered itself as soon as they 
had secured a bounty. They played this game in 
France, in Austria, in Holland, and, (much more cau- 
tiously, and only as a desperate resource,) in Prussia.^ 

^ Some German princes had a wonderful eye for an old soldier. Duke 


Whatever garrison town might be their temporary domi- 
cile, they were everywhere watched Hke convicts, and 
punished with frightful severity. Each in his time had 
ridden the wooden horse, with a couple of muskets 
strapped to either foot ; or had lain in a mouldy dun- 
geon, or dragged a cannon-ball at his ankle on the ram- 
parts, for years together ; or had run the gauntlet of a 
battalion armed with switches as far down the line as 
he could stagger before he fainted. Without honour, 
without patriotism, they were thieves and drunkards ; 
seducers in time of peace, and something much worse 
when during an invasion they had a village or farm- 
house at their mercy. Hardly able, some of them, to 
name a country where they could ever make a home, 
and settle down to a trade, without the almost certain 
prospect of being shot as deserters, they lived for the 
passing moment, intent only on misusing it in some 
manner agreeable to themselves. 

George the Third was German enough thoroughly 
to understand the system, and Englishman enough to 
be somewhat ashamed of being directly mixed up with 
it. His necessities obliged him to have recourse to 
Continental enlistments ; but the worst abuses which 
were connected with it he was sincerely desirous to 
avoid. He sent orders to Hanover to raise four thou- 
sand men, and named two garrisons where the recruits 
should be closely kept. But he absolutely and re- 
peatedly declined to bribe and stimulate any profes- 
sional recruiter by the offer of a Commission under his 
own hand and in his own army. "The only idea these 
Germans ought to adopt," he wrote, " is the being con- 
tractors for raising recruits, and fixing the price they 
will deliver them at Hamburgh, Rotterdam, and any 
other port they may propose." Farther, and lower, 
than this he would not go. " The giving commissions 

Charles of Wurtemberg, who flourished during the American war, made 
it a standing rule that any traveller, with the look of a deserter, should be 
brought into his presence and oftered the choice between enlistment or 
imprisonment for life. 


to officers, or any other of the proposals that have been 
made, I can by no means consent to, for they in plain 
English are turning me into a kidnapper, which I can- 
not think a very honourable occupation." ^ 

The laws of Germany, as the King admitted, did not 
allow him to extend his operations outside the confines 
of Hanover. The bishop who was Prince of Liege, and 
the archbishop who was Elector of Cologne, allowed him 
to establish recruiting centres within their respective 
territories ; but the lay statesmen of the Court at Vienna 
took another view of German honour and German obli- 
gations. They wrote to the Free Cities that Great 
Britain had no more connection with the empire than 
Russia or Spain, neither of which powers was per- 
mitted to recruit within its limits. Hampered by that 
Constitutional difficulty, as well as by his own scruples, 
George the Third fell back upon a project of hiring 
ready-made battalions wholesale from needy, or, (if such 
could be discovered,) friendly and sympathetic foreign 
powers. The army of Holland contained a fine brigade 
whose officers were Scotch by descent, although the rank 
and file were no longer drawn from Scotland, as had 
been the case until the middle of the century. Our 
ambassador was instructed to request that this body of 
troops should be transferred from the service of the 
Netherlands to the service of Great Britain. But in 
Holland such an application could not be granted 
before it had been openly examined and discussed. 
When the matter came on for debate it was opposed 
on the practical ground that a commercial state should 
never, except from necessity, become involved in any 
quarrel ; and by the historical argument that the Dutch, 
who owed their national existence to what in its day 
had been termed a rebellion, should be chary of helping 
to subdue a people who possibly were as brave, and as 
ardent for liberty, as their own forefathers. The States 
General agreed to send the Scotch brigade across to 
England on condition that it should not be employed 

1 King to North; Kew, August 26, and November 14, 1775. 


outside Europe. That reply, courteous in form, was 
intended as a refusal by the Hague ; and as such it was 
construed at Whitehall. 

The British Government thenceforward directed its 
efforts to more promising quarters. Charles, Duke of 
Brunswick, in the course of a long reign had spent, 
sometimes on objects of very dubious morality, all that 
he could extract from his own people, and all that he 
could induce capitalists in other countries to lend him. 
His family already knew the feel of English money. 
The Hereditary Prince, who had recently been asso- 
ciated with his father in the administration of the 
Duchy, had married Augusta, a sister of George the 
Third ; had received with her an enormous dowry ; 
and had given her very little happiness indeed in return 
for it. The reigning house of l^runswick now, for the 
second time, struck a hard bargain with the King of 
England. They engaged to provide him four thousand 
infantry and three hundred dismounted dragoons. As 
long as the force received our pay, the Duke of Bruns- 
wick was to get, for his own share, fifteen thousand 
pounds a year from the English Treasury ; and that 
subsidy was not only to be continued, but was actually to 
be doubled, during the two years succeeding the return 
of the said troops into His Serene Highness's dominions. 
General Riedesel, who commanded the contingent, was 
a man of honour and prowess. The dragoons, and two 
of the battalions, belonged to the regular Ducal army, 
which the Hereditary Prince kept in a state of high 
efficiency. But these choice articles were only, so to 
speak, the upper layer in the consignment of the goods 
which ultimately were delivered. In order to make up 
the full tale of men, the Brunswick authorities put in 
force the utmost rigours of conscription. The product 
of their industry was not admirable to a good military 
eye. Colonel Harcourt was an excellent officer, who 
subsequently rose to great commands ; and who, as an 
inmate of George the Third's household, was destined 
for many years together to enjoy and deserve the inti- 


mate confidence of his sovereign. " The Brunswickers," 
so Harcourt reported, *' arrived at Portsmouth a few- 
days before, a sad sample of what is to be expected ; 
no intermediate age between grandfathers and grand- 
children; with coaches and every other impediment 
for their officers, and without a necessary for their 
men. The generals marched, or rather reeled, off the 
parade." ^ This account was afterwards confirmed by 
an observer who, for his misfortune, had a longer and 
closer acquaintance than Harcourt with the worse 
elements among our German auxiliaries. An English 
officer, one of the captives of Saratoga, complained that 
several of the Brunswick regiments in Burgoyne's army 
were utterly unfit for warfare. The reigning Duke had 
forced into the ranks all his subjects who at any time 
had been soldiers ; and had obliged old officers to leave 
their retirement, and take service once more, on pain, if 
they refused, of forfeiting their half-pay. *' Only pic- 
ture to your imagination," this gentleman exclaimed, 
" ensigns of forty and fifty commanding troops not much 
younger, and judge how proper they are for an active 
and vigorous campaign in the thick woods of America." ^ 
The hope of gain disturbed the equanimity of all 
Serene Highnesses, between the Elbe, the Danube, and 
the Rhine, who owned a guard-room and a drill-yard. 
To use Burke's unsavoury, but most expressive, meta- 
phor, they snuffed the cadaverous taint of lucrative 
war ; and the sky above the British Treasury was soon 
alive with royal vultures. The Prince of the little state 
of Waldeck wrote off at once to offer six hundred men 
who, like their ruler, demanded nothing better than to 
sacrifice themselves for His British Majesty. The sacri- 
fice made by the Prince himself was to receive five 
thousand pounds sterling for every year that the wood- 
cutters and charcoal-burners of Waldeck were shooting, 

"^ Harcourt Papers : Letter of the Hon. Colonel William Harcourt, of 
April 3, 1776. 

2 Travels through the Interior Paris of America^ in a Series of Letters 
by an Officer. London, 1791. 


and being shot by, the lumberers of Maine and Con 
necticut. The spontaneous advances of one potentate 
were rejected on the ground that his troops were among 
the worst in Germany. Another, who had just wits 
enough to keep up sixteen recruiting stations on the 
territory of his neighbours, pressed a battalion on the 
acceptance of George the Third in a letter so crazy that 
it could not be translated into rational Knglish. London 
society correctly analysed the motive which prompted 
such an outburst of warlike zeal among the j-)rinces of 
the Empire. " The civil discord between the parent 
country and its enraged colonies boils over with inex- 
pressible violence; whilst the administration, too late, 
are now preparing to send out a most formidable force. 
Environed with incendiaries, and accounting all helps as 
scarce sufficient to quench the contlagration. 

To Hesse. Brunswick, Hanover they run. 
*Oh ! cross the .Atlantic every mother's son ; 
Or that milch cow, Britannia, is undone.' " * 

So one man of fashion wrote to another in London; 
and the proud and fiery aristocracy, which held high 
debate in the Dublin ])arliament, was more outspoken 
still. Four thousand British troops had been shipped 
for America from Ireland ; and Lord North designed 
to fill their place with an equal number of foreign 
Protestants. But Ireland was the very last country in 
the world which needed to import fighting Protestants; 
and so the prime minister learned to his cost before the 
war had ended. The Lord Lieutenant at once declared 
that such a proposition would not bear discussion in 
either Chamber. ** I say it," Lord Harcourt wrote, 
" with concern and shame, that I know no one of those 
who have been called the ancient and confidential ser- 
vants of the Crown whom I should dare to trust in 
such an exigency without a risk of having the measure 
defeated." 2 

^ Sir Charles Wintringham to Captain Monk; Dover Street, March 25, 

*Lord Harcourt to Lord North; October 17, 1775. 


There was one German ruler whose wilHngness to 
lend his troops was more important than that of any, or 
indeed of all, of the others. The Hessian army, which, 
when engaged in Continental war, exceeded in strength 
the British army on a peace footing, was strictly disci- 
plined and exceedingly formidable. It was raised by 
conscription from a people docile to authority, strong in 
body, with hardy habits, and of a courageous nature. 
The Landgrave of Hesse now held the call of the mili- 
tary market. He had a large stock of wares, of undeni- 
able quality, manufactured and in store ; and he used 
his advantage shrewdly. He agreed to place at the dis- 
posal of George the Third twelve thousand foot soldiers, 
and thirty-two pieces of cannon. The details of the 
treaty were minutely contested ; and, at every stage of 
the discussions, Casscl never failed to get the better of 
London. Point after point, each of them involving a 
difference of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of 
crowns, was settled in favour of Hesse ; but the master- 
stroke was the arrangement of the sum which was con- 
tributed over and above the pay and expenses of the 
troops. The German negotiators insisted that Great 
Britain should promise a double subsidy of a hundred 
and ten thousand pounds a year, which went into the 
coffers of the Hessian Government as so much clear 
profit. That subsidy was to run for a complete twelve- 
month after His Britannic Majesty had given notice to 
the Landgrave that payment was to cease ; which notice 
was not to be given until the contingent had returned 
from America, " and had actually arrived in the domin- 
ions of the said prince, namely in Hesse, properly so 
called." 1 

The magnitude of the transaction, and the one-sided 
character of the bargain, impressed public imagination 
to the exclusion of all besides ; and so it came to pass 
that German mercenaries in the American war, then, and 

^ Translation of the Treaty between His Majesty and the Landgrare of 
Hesse Cassel : signed at Cassel, the thirteenth of January, 1776. Parlia- 
mentary History f Vol. XVIH., page 11 60. 


ever since, were familiarly known as Hessians. The 
whole force did not consist of made and trained soldiers. 
The Landgrave could not afford to draw upon his regu- 
lar army for so large a detachment ; and the unhappy 
country was bled to the quick by an unsparing and 
special conscription. To escape impressment many 
Hessians fled to Hanover ; and King George was re- 
quested to turn back the fugitives from his frontier, and 
to assist the Landgrave to fulfil his engagements with 
Great Britain. One in every four of the able-bodied 
men in Hesse was sooner or later shipped off to fight, 
at a distance of a thousand leagues from his home, in a 
quarrel about which he knew very little, and cared even 
less. It has been calculated that a compulsory levy, 
enforced uj^on England and Wales with the like sever- 
ity, would have produced an army of four hundred 
thousand men.^ Even so, the ranks were not filled up ; 
and the Landgrave had recourse to voluntary enlistment, 
as it then was practised in Germany. Side by side with 
Hessian peasants and artisans^ there marched adven- 
turers from every country in luirope. Some regiments, 
which were well manned and perfectly drilled, wanted 
nothing except a belief in their cause to make them as 
good as the best ; but others were below mediocrity, 
and almost all of them contained a proportion of bad 
materials. In the license of a foraging party, and in 
the stress of battle, there was greater variety of be- 
haviour among the auxiliaries than between one English 
regiment and another. Certain German battalions were 
the weakest Hnks in the chain which was to bind Amer- 
ica ; as was proved at Trenton and at Bennington, on 
two occasions when the British expectations of a success- 
ful issue to the war appeared to be on the very eve of 

Everything comes to a reputation which waits; and 

the Landgrave of Hesse has had his turn of being 

whitewashed by history. He has of recent years been 

made the subject of an elaborate and ingenious apology 

1 Bancroft's History : Part III., chapter 57. 


from the point of view of Hessian, as opposed to Prus- 
sian and German, patriotism. ^ It is argued that he 
took part in the American war in order to assert the 
title of his State to rank among the miUtary powers of 
the world ; and his conduct has been compared to that 
of Count Cavour, when Sardinians were despatched to 
the Crimea as the allies of France and England. The 
same statesmanlike wisdom, it is asserted, was shown 
at Cassel in 1775 and at Turin in 1855. But the Cri- 
mean policy of the great Italian was adopted as a first 
step towards the liberation and consolidation of Italy ; 
whereas the Landgrave of Hesse cannot be credited 
with any aspiration to promote either the freedom or 
the unity of Germany. We are told, in a passage not 
destitute of pathos, how the Elector '* never ceased to 
mourn over the long absence of his army, his dear sub- 
jects ; " and how anxiety, and years of quiet grief, 
weighed on his noble heart, so that, a few months after 
the return of the last of his soldiers, he died suddenly, 
and all too soon for the love of the people whom he 
governed. The lapse of time places bounds to the 
retrospective operation of human sympathy; and our 
generation has no tears to spare for the circumstance 
that Frederic the Second of Hesse expired before re- 
ceiving from London the last instalment of his conso- 

A more solid argument in favour of the Elector of 
Hesse was the effect of British munificence upon the 
finances of the Electorate, and upon the private budgets 
of the ofificers and soldiers of the Contingent. The 
advocate and panegyrist of the Landgrave assures us 
that the men were better paid, and their commanders 
much better paid, than the corresponding ranks of the 
English establishment. There never, (he says,) was an 
army so well off as the Hessians who served in America. 
A married subaltern could support his family in Ger- 

^ Summary and statement of a pamphlet published in Cassel in 1879, 
communicated by Joseph G. Rosengarten to the Pennsylvania Magazine 
of History and Biography : July 1899. 


many, while he himself lived well in the colonies : and 
the captains, and those above them, laid by money fast. 
It was a common \\\\x\^ for colonels to have from six 
thousand, to thirteen thousand, dollars standings to their 
credit. The subjects of the Elector, who remained at 
home, had their share in this unparalleled prosperity. 
The Landgrave raised his country from poverty and 
squalor by the improvement of his capital and of the 
neighbouring palace ; by roads, parks, museums, semi- 
naries, hospitals, universities, libraries, opera house, and 
chapel. When he came to the throne, the Hessian 
Treasury owed two and a h;ilf millions of dollars. 
When he died, it was twelve and a half millions to the 
good. The source of all this beneficent expenditure, 
and of all these savings, *' was of course the English 
subsidy ; " — and, (it might have been added,) an indefi- 
nite prolongation of the misery and suffering which 
was inflicted upon America. Whatever the argument 
is worth, it is a poor defence when addressed to an 
Englishman whose income-tax, on account of those old 
subsidies, is to this day higher by a perceptible fraction 
of a penny. Nor is it an argument of much value in 
the estimation of a German patriot. Men do not ap- 
prove conduct which they would scorn to imitate; and, 
since the days of Blucher, and Stein, and Kcjrner, no 
true German would so much as entertain the idea of 
trafficking in German valour. The best of the rulers 
who shared in the profits of that unworthy C(^mmerce 
had reason, in the course of events, bitterly to repent it. 
The Hereditary Prince of Brunswick was a valiant war- 
rior ; but he died the most unhappy of generals. Foiled 
at Valmy by the enthusiasm of the young French re- 
public, — and utterly ruined, with all that he held dear, 
on the fatal day of Auerstadt and Jena, — he was 
heavily punished for haWng helped to pervert and en- 
feeble the national spirit of Germany by selling her 
sons into the armies of the foreigner. 

Information soon reached the colonists that a scheme 
was on foot for effecting their subjugation by means of 


a body of troops who did not speak their language, and 
who came from countries where the idea of Hberty, as 
Anglo-Saxons understood it, was totally unknown. The 
tidings were everywhere received with surprise, indig- 
nation, and cruel anxiety. Those feelings were strong- 
est in the quiet, well-ordered homesteads of the settled 
districts which, ever since the red man had retreated 
westwards, had been exempt from the terror of rapine, 
and conflagration, and outrage. It was indeed a griev- 
ous prospect for farmers who lived along the Hudson 
River, or to the east of the Delaware. The German 
officers, and a great majority of their men, might be re- 
spectable and law-abiding, in so far as military law was 
any protection to the inhabitants of a rural district 
which had been proclaimed rebellious ; but a consider- 
able percentage of the rank and file in some of the 
regiments was composed of refuse from all the barrack- 
rooms in Europe. The near future proved only too 
well that the apprehensions entertained by dwellers in 
the sea-board provinces were not exaggerated. A threat- 
ened invasion by alien mercenaries affected Americans 
not only as householders who trembled for their roof- 
trees, their orchards, and for the welfare and honour 
of their families. As citizens, also, and as politicians, 
they warmly resented the interference of foreigners in 
a national quarrel. Both in America and Great Britain, 
the struggle was regarded as a civil war ; and such a 
war, odious under many aspects, has at any rate one 
thing in its favour. If honestly fought out, it affords 
a rough, but not inadequate, test of the proportions in 
which the public opinion of the nation concerned is 
divided on one side of a question or the other. It was 
already manifest that England was lukewarm ; native 
Enghshmen came but slowly forward to support in arms 
the cause of the Ministers ; and for those Ministers to 
tempt Germany into the ring by preposterously lavish 
offers of EngHsh treasure was to play the game unfairly. 
Such was the view held by the colonists in 1775 ; and 
that view has ever since been taken by our own his- 



torians. *' The conduct of England," (so Mr. Lecky 
writes,) "in hiring German mercenaries to subdue the 
essentially English population beyond the Atlantic, 
made reconciliation hopeless, and the Declaration of 
Independence inevitable. It was idle for the Ameri- 
cans to have any further scruple about calling in for- 
eigners to assist them when luigland had herself set 
the example." ^ 

So speaks the voice of posterity ; but even then Lord 
North and his colleagues had a foretaste of the condem- 
nation which was ultimately in store for them. In Feb- 
ruary 1776 the treaties with Hrunswick and Hesse were 
communicated to Parliament. On the fifth of March 
the House of Peers debated a proposal to countermand 
the German troops, and suspend hostilities in America. 
The question was moved by the Duke of Richmond, a 
fiery and haughty nobleman, and a gallant soldier who 
had distinguished himself at Minden ; though indeed 
that circumstance was not now a passport to the favour 
of the Court. The Duke, setting scornfully aside the 
charge that he was giving information to a probable 
enemy, spoke openly about the undefended condition of 
the kingdom, which he affirmed to be so notorious that 
nothing remained to be concealed. He computed our 
home force at seven thousand men ; and when the 
metropolis, and the three great arsenals of Plymouth, 
Portsmouth, and Chatham, had been provided with the 
ridiculously insufficient garrison of a thousand apiece, 
only two very weak brigades would be left to meet an 
invader in the field. Those were the circumstances 
under which three out of every four of our regiments 
were despatched across the Atlantic to conquer America; 
with the prospect, if ever the conquest was effected, of 
remaining there as an army of occupation and rej^ression 
until the end of time. But, even so, all the troops who 
could be scraped together from every corner of Great 
Britain and Ireland proved not enough for the task ; and 

* A History of England in the Eighteenth Century: chapter 12. 



their efforts were to be seconded by a host of merce- 
naries, hired on terms so profuse as to humiliate our 
nation in the eyes of Europe, and to excite the jealousy 
of our own less favoured military people. It was all 
very well, (Richmond argued,) for the ministers to assert 
that they had the constituencies with them. The chief 
support of their policy was not public opinion but pri- 
vate interest. The two most powerful men in the House 
of Commons, whether they spoke much or little, were 
Mr. Rigby and Sir Gilbert I^lliot, the Paymaster of the 
Forces and the Treasurer of the Navy. Their gains, 
(so the Duke declared,) rose and fell with the amount 
of money expended upon our fighting services; and the 
measures pursued by the Cabinet would be the means of 
procuring to both of them princely fortunes.^ Those 
gentlemen and their connections, with the whole race of 
money-jobbers and contractors, formed no small part of 
the so-called independent majorities which, within and 
without the doors of Parliament, had precipitated the 
country into a cruel, a costly, and an unnatural civil 

Richmond discoursed well, and he was ably and 
stoutly backed. The Duke of Grafton besought the 
peers to seize upon an opportunity for peace and recon- 
ciHation which, once lost, could never be recovered. He 
assured the House, as he had every right to do, that he 
had always been opposed to the coercion of America. 
"I perceive in it," he declared, ''nothing but inevitable 
ruin. I contemplate it with the most pungent anxiety. 
I turn my face from it with horror. These have been 
my sentiments from the very beginning, and I have 
uniformly acted conformably thereto. I have argued, 
prayed, and implored that the wild and destructive proj- 
ect might be laid aside." The Earl of Shelburne drew 

1 Richmond probably exaggerated, to himself and his audience, the 
gains of the Treasurer of the Xa\7'. But Rigby would certainly have 
raised up a princely fortune from the American war, had not his current 
receipts, and indeed his stealings as well, gone mostly into the pockets of 
his creditors. 



a striking comparison between war which was unneces- 
sary and unpopular, and war in which the nation had its 
heart. He reminded his hearers how, when Lord 
Chatham was defying and discomfiting France and 
Spain, Great Britain sent, first and last, more than four 
hundred thousand of her own citizens into the camp and 
the fleet. And yet, so far from our trade standing still 
for want of hands, the exports and imports increased at 
a rate unknown during any former period. But now, 
when we were opposed to a million or so of our own 
colonists, whom the Ministry described as cowards, it 
was contended that, without ruining our manufactures, 
we could not raise one-fifth part of the native force 
which flocked to our standards half a generation ago ; 
and therefore we were reduced to run for succour to two 
paltry German principalities as the only means of secur- 
ing our political salvation. 

Lord Camden, who had been Chatham's Attorney 
General and afterwards his Lord Chancellor, contemp- 
tuously tore in pieces the theory that the treaties with 
Germany were honourable international compacts, 
founded upon considerations of reciprocal support and 
common interests. " To give this bargain," he said, " the 
appearance of what it really is not, the whole is stuffed 
up with pompous expressions of alliance, as if these 
petty states were really concerned in the event of the 
present contest between this country and America. 
The transaction is a compound of the most solemn 
mockery and gross imposition that was ever attempted 
to be put on a house of parHament. Is there one of 
your lordships who does not perceive most clearly that 
it is a mere bargain for the hire of troops on one side, 
and the sale of human blood on the other ; and that the 
devoted wretches thus purchased for slaughter are mer- 
cenaries in the worst sense of the word } " Lord Suffolk, 
the candid man of the Ministry, who always addressed 
the House of Lords in that downright conversational 
style which the House of Lords prefers, did not concern 
himself with the dignity either of the Landgrave of 


Hesse or the Duke of Brunswick. " The Treaties," so 
he admitted, "are filled with high-sounding phrases of 
alliance ; but I will be so ingenuous as to confess that 
the true object of these treaties is not so much to create 
an alliance, as to hire a body of troops which the present 
rebellion in America has rendered necessary." Those 
were the words in which an English Secretary of State, 
talking plain common-sense to his brother peers, shat- 
tered by anticipation the defence which in our own time 
a German writer has set up for those German rulers who 
traded in the lives of their people. 

The oratory in the Commons was pitched in a lower 
key ; but it was a discussion even more damaging to the 
reputation of the Government. The spokesmen of the 
representative Chamber were business-like and minute 
over a question into which finance so largely entered ; 
and they would otherwise have been wanting to them- 
selves and to their special function in the State. Lord 
John Cavendish ruthlessly scrutinised the details of the 
German contracts ; and his criticisms went home to 
veteran Parliamentarians, who well remembered how 
thriftily, in the Seven Years' War, Frederic the Great 
had husbanded the modest contribution which was doled 
out to him from our Treasury for the promotion of high 
objects common to England and to Prussia. More good 
fighting, (so a famous authority has reckoned,) was got 
out of that poor six hundred thousand a year than out 
of any of the millions " which we have funded in that 
pecuHar line of enterprise." ^ Lord Irnham warned 
the House of Commons that the old warrior of Potsdam 
had a tenacious memory ; and that the very last thing he 
would be likely to forget was the manner in which, with- 
out due notice or decent apology, his British subsidy 
had been snatched from him at the moment when he 
was contending, almost without hope and against fright- 
ful odds, for his hfe and Crown. He would not fail to 
contrast that display of niggardly ill-will, which had so 
nearly been his destruction, with the prodigal terms that 

^ Carlyle's Frederick the Great : Book XVIII., chapter xi. 


now were pressed upon the royal slave-drivers of Hesse 
and Brunswick. In reference to those potentates, Lord 
Irnham, who had read " Don Quixote " to some purpose, 
quoted Sancho's wish that, if he were a prince, " all his 
subjects should be black-a-moors, as he could then by 
the sale of them easily turn them into ready money." 
Burke told the country gentlemen that it was not so long 
since the prime minister was beguiling them with a 
promise of obtaining from America a revenue which 
would relieve them from the land-tax. But now all 
pretence that the enforcement of the tea-duty was a 
profitable speculation for l-5ritish tax-payers had been 
abandoned ; and for every thousand foreigners whom we 
had taken into our service we were to spend as much as 
for fifteen hundred natives. Colonel liarrd commented 
on the circumstance that English manufacturers, in the 
dearth of orders, had looked forward to supplying uni- 
forms for the Hessian Contingent as a set-off against 
the losses in which the war had involved them. But 
that market, like others, was closed to them ; inasmuch 
as the Landgrave had stii)ulatcd that every article of 
clothing and equipment should be made in Germany. 
The colonel went on to ask whether, if the auxiliary 
force was reduced to half its number by battle, pesti- 
lence, or shipwreck, the payments to the Hessian and 
Brunswick treasuries would be proportionately dimin- 
ished ; and the Secretary at War helplessly acknowl- 
edged that, until he had taken time to consider, he was 
not in a position to answer the question. 

That reply gave some indication of the amount of 
forethought which had guided North and his Cabinet 
when they opened the flood-gates of expenditure. The 
division-list in both houses was affected by the wretched 
figure which the occupants of the Treasury benches 
had cut in the debate, and by the national jealousy 
which the German treaties aroused in the minds of a 
proud people, never very partial to a foreigner even 
when he is not feeding at their cost. Of peers actually 
present, three out of eleven went against the Govern- 


ment; and the Opposition, curiously enough, did ex- 
actly as well in the Commons.^ But with that flicker 
of resentment the independence of Parliament, as ap- 
plied to the question of national expenditure, for the 
present ended. Throughout the Session Ministers got 
their own way, and on most occasions got it very 
easily. Twelve thousand additional seamen were voted 
for the fleet, and the land force was raised to a strength 
of fifty-five thousand men. On paper, at any rate, the 
army was trebled by a single operation ; the estimates 
for the fighting services were nearly doubled ; and the 
price of Consols fell five points during the five opening 
months of the year 1776.^ Such were the first fruits of 
those economies which were confidently promised when 
the methods, by which Chatham had induced America 
spontaneously to assist in the defence of the empire, were 
exchanged for the policy of compulsory taxation as pro- 
pounded by George Grenville and Charles Townshend. 

It was exactly what Burke had foretold. Months 
before the Session opened, he addressed to Lord Rock- 
ingham, and through Lord Rockingham to the Whig 
party, a letter of exhortation so eloquent that it might 
well have roused to arms even the garrison of that 
Castle of Indolence. " As sure as we have now an 
existence," he wrote, "if the meeting of Parliament 
should catch your Lordship and your friends in an 
unprepared state, nothing but disgrace and ruin can 
attend the cause you are at the head of. I protest to 
God that your reputation, your duty, and the duty and 
honour of us all who profess your sentiments, from the 
highest to the lowest of us, demand at this time one 
honest hearty effort, in order to keep our hands from 
blood, and if possible keep the poor, giddy, thoughtless 
people from plunging headlong into this impious war." 

^ Richmond's motion for an Address was supported by 29 peers, and 
opposed by 79, exclusive of Proxies. The Treaties were approved in the 
House of Commons by 242 to 2i^. 

2 The estimates for Army, Navy, and Ordnance were 3,879,264/. in 
1775, and 7,541,049/. in 1776. The Funds were at 88 on the first of Janu- 
ary 1776, and at 2>t^ on the twenty-fourth of May, 


That was no time, Burke urged, for taking public busi- 
ness as part of a comfortable, leisurely, scheme of life, 
mixed in with private occupations and amusements. 
The occasion was one which called for the whole of the 
best among them ; and, above all, for Rockingham. 
America was his. He had saved her once, and now by 
taking action betimes, might very possibly save her 
again. If the honourable memories connected with the 
repeal of the Stamp Act did not move him, at any rate 
let him bethink himself how, only two years back, he 
had come up to Grosvenor Square, without wailing for 
the commencement of the London season, and had sum- 
moned his colleagues round him to lay their plans for 
defeating the proposal of an Irish Absentee Tax. 

Human nature is not always at its highest level ; 
and heroic sacrifices arise only from heartfelt motives. 
When their incomes were threatened by the Irish 
parliament, the Rockinghams did not shrink even from 
the hardshi]) of living for the inside of a week in a 
town-house with the carpets up, and covers on the 
furniture. But when nothing worse was to be feared 
than a civil war, and two or three foreign wars to 
follow, they considered that the Newmarket meeting in 
October was a reasonable date for breaking up their 
establishments in the country, and coming South in 
order to learn what Burke wanted of them at West- 
minster.^ Their lethargy was exasperating to clear- 
sighted patriots, and especially to such as had been in 
Parliament themselves, but were there no longer. " The 
Opposition," Horace Walpolc wrote, "seemed to have 
lost all spirit. What little life there was, existed in the 
Duke of Richmond and Charles Fox." ^ 

^ " It may be worth your Ix)rdship's consideration whether you ought 
not, as soon as possible, to draw your principal friends together. It may 
then be examined whether a larger meeting might not be expedient, to 
see whether some plan could not be thought of for doing something in the 
counties and the towns. The October meeting at Newmarket will be too 
late in the year ; and then the business of the meeting would take up too 
much time from the other." Burke to Rockingham ; August 23, 1775. 

* The Last Journals of Horace Walpole : January 1776. 


Vitality enough, of one sort or another, most cer- 
tainly abounded in the last-named of that pair of kins- 
men. The most industrious, in his own way, of political 
apprentices, he did not shape his existence after the 
precepts of the copy-books. He was seldom in bed 
before five in the morning, nor out of it until two in the 
afternoon ; but into his fifteen waking hours he crowded 
a mass of great and almost continuous effort on behalf 
of the cause to which his life was now devoted. For 
that cause he was always at work, with a somewhat 
droll disregard of what others would consider to be the 
fitness of time and place. Though he was attentive, 
respectful, and nearly silent in company with Reynolds 
and Johnson over the classic suppers at the Club, he 
insisted that the companions of his lighter moments 
should take him on his own terms. Most of them had 
seats in one house of Parliament or the other ; they 
were all worth convincing ; and few among them in the 
end resisted the spell of the enchanter. Charles Fox 
had no notion of allowing his contemporaries, and, 
(where he could find such in politics,) his juniors, to 
have a will, or very many words, of their own about 
the American controversy. Haranguing and bantering, 
dominating and persuading, but never boring them, — 
since that was an effect which an otherwise bountiful 
Providence had made him constitutionally incapable of 
producing, — he soon formed around him a band of 
admiring comrades and declared adherents. In the 
Commons, meanwhile, he made himself more felt week 
by week, and session by session ; even though he 
laboured under what to him was the unique disadvan- 
tage of dealing with an assembly which still professed 
to meet for the despatch of business at ten o'clock in the 

Tradition has handed down the wonderful impression 
caused by a single sentence which Charles Fox uttered 
in the debate on the Address in October 1775. Wed- 
derburn, passing lightly over the circumstance that Bos- 
ton was the only spot in the thirteen colonies where the 


British flag still floated, had attempted to defend North 
as a war minister by drawing a parallel between him 
and Chatham. Speaking late in the discussion, as was 
usual with him for the most imperative of reasons, Fox 
accepted the comparison, and carried it further still. 
Not Lord Chatham, (he cried,) not Alexander the Great, 
nor Caesar, had ever conquered so much territory in the 
course of all their wars as Lord North had lost in one 
campaign. A month afterwards Burke laid upon the 
table his bill for composing the differences between 
England and America. In view of so important an oc- 
casion, Fox appealed to Lord Ossory in a lofty and im- 
passioned letter which is still extant, and brought over 
from the ministerial ranks that nobleman, and Richard 
Fitzpatrick with him. It was a notable testimony to 
their own disinterestedness, and to their young kins- 
man's powers of persuasion. For the two brothers 
were, indeed, connected by marriage with the Holland 
family ; but they were nephews to Lord Gower, then 
President of the Council; — a relationship which held 
out to them a prospect of material advantages much 
superior to any that for many years to come could 
be expected from Charles Fox. Encouraged by that 
signal tribute to the effect of his personal influence, and 
with two voices more to cheer his oratory, Fox spoke, 
(according to the quaint version of the official reporter,) 
with infinite wit and readiness ; carrying his finger along 
the whole row of ministers, and " happily marking the 
characters of each of them with a single epithet, with 
fine satire, and without the least breach of decorum." ^ 
And then, naming himself and Ossory as tellers for the 
Yeas, he collected in support of Burke a body of mem- 
bers larger by twenty-five per cent, than that which 
eight months previously the same statesman had been 
able to muster in the same parliament over the same 
question. And, on a Tuesday morning of the following 
February, Fox got himself roused and dressed in time 
to attend as soon as the House met, in order to move 

^ Farliamentary History^ pages 99 1 and 992. 


for a Committee to enquire into the Causes of the ill 
Success of His Majesty's Arms in North America. 
Ossory seconded the motion ; Fitzpatrick supported it ; 
and the three young fellows among them secured a 
division which showed that there was plenty of right 
sense and public spirit among the representatives of the 
nation, if only they were properly handled.^ 

But the tide of reaction was still running strong, in 
spite of all that individual effort could do to stem the 
flow. On the twentieth of November, 1775, Lord North 
brought in a bill to prohibit trade and intercourse with 
the thirteen colonies. The machinery of prohibition 
was drastic and simple ; for it consisted in declaring 
that the property of Americans, whether of ships or 
goods, on the high seas or in harbour, was forfeited to 
the captors, being the officers and crews of His Majesty's 
vessels of war. The bill was combated in the House of 
Commons by a series of prophecies, every one of w^hich 
in the end received exact fulfilment. Thomas Walpolc, 
cousin to Horace, and nearly as infrequent and unwill- 
ing a speaker, belonged to a family whose members, 
whether they call themselves Whigs or Tories, have sel- 
dom remained for long together in antagonism to the 
dictates of reason and humanity. Walpole now admitted 
that he had begun by approving the policy of ministers : 
but his mind had been altered by the bad consequences 
of their earlier measures, and the results of this last pro- 
posal would be more calamitous still. The Americans 
would retahate by admitting into their ports ships of 
other maritime powers, and would in\dte the foreigner 
to supply their w^ants ; a proceeding, (he continued,) 
which would undoubtedly compel the British Govern- 
ment to seize property belonging to the subjects of other 
states, and so eventually involve the country in a disas- 
trous European war. Lord George Cavendish, — who 
knew Lancashire well, and Yorkshire and the Midlands 
better still, — warned Parliament that manufactures 

^The opposition voted 105 for Burke's bill, and 104 for Fox's Com- 


were already declining in almost every part of the king- 
dom, and that this bill, after it had become law, would 
throw above forty thousand hands out of employ- 

Towards the close of the debate a gentleman stood up 
who apparently had something which he was very much 
in earnest to say, and who accordingly was treated as an 
unauthorised intruder upon the attention of the House. 
But he was a West Indian merchant with so much at 
stake that he held his ground bravely amid a storm 
of jeers and exclamations. He bade those vociferous 
members, who were in such a hurry to have the ques- 
tion put, to bear with him until he had appealed to the 
Noble Lord on behalf of his estate which was going to 
be taken from him by this bill. If all trade, (he as- 
serted,) were stopped between our loyal and disloyal 
colonies, the West Indies would at once be ruined. For 
himself, he had in vain gone up and down the City of 
London, ever since it had become known that this 
scheme was in the air, offering a thousand guineas 
as insurance for his cargoes now at sea, until he could 
instruct his managers in Jamaica to ship no more of his 
produce on American vessels. And yet his own case, 
(so he explained,) was less desperate than that of his 
brother planters who were in residence on their estates. 
Many of them had the greater part of what they were 
worth in the world on board American ships, now on 
their passage to this kingdom. Long before informa- 
tion had reached them that it was expedient to insure • 
their property against war-risks, the whole of that prop- 
erty would be captured and confiscated ; so that, as far 
as the interests of these poor people were concerned, 
" war might as well have been declared between Great 
Britain and Jamaica." When the nature of the bill had 
been made evident, several Honourable Gentlemen en- 
treated Lord North to postpone its further progress 
until the West Indian merchants then in town could lay 
before the House any information which they might 
judge to be necessary. The request was curtly and em- 


phatically refused ; and the Government was sustained 
in its inflexible attitude by overwhelming majorities. 

The bill passed victoriously through all the stages; 
but, whether Ministers wished it or not, Charles Fox had 
to be heard ; and heard he was. The most bigoted of his 
opponents were glad to listen, and the most impertinent 
would have been unable successfully to interrupt, while 
he spoke with the unpremeditated ease of private con- 
versation, and all the charm and force of oratory. " I 
have always said," (such was the outline of his argu- 
ment,) **that the war is unjust, and the object of it un- 
attainable. But, admitting it to be a just and practicable 
war, I now say that the means employed are not such 
as will secure the desired ends. In order to induce the 
Americans to submit, you pass laws against them, tyran- 
nical and cruel in the extreme. When they complain of 
one law, your answer is to pass another more rigorous 
than the former. You tell us that you have no choice 
in the matter, because they are in rebellion. Then 
treat them as rebels are wont to be treated. Send out 
your fleets and armies, and subdue them ; but show 
them that your laws are mild, just, and equitable, and 
that they therefore are in the wrong, and deserve the 
punishment they meet with. The very contrary of this 
has been your wretched policy. I have ever understood 
it, as a first principle, that in rebellion you punish the 
individuals, but spare the country. In a war against a 
foreign enemy you spare individuals, and do your utmost 
to injure and impoverish the country. Your conduct has 
in all respects been the reverse of this. When the Bos- 
ton Port Bill was under debate, I advised you to arrest 
and punish the offending persons. But you preferred 
to lay under a terrible interdict the whole population of 
Boston, innocent and guilty alike. And now, by the 
bill before us, you not only do your utmost to ruin those 
innocent men who are unfortunately mixed up with the 
guilty on the main-land of North America, but you 
starve whole islands of unoffending people who are 
separated from the rebellion by loyalty, and unconnected 


with it by their political action and their political 

It was common-sense, red-hot; and Ministers did not 
venture to touch it except with the very tips of their 
fingers. In the speech which did duty for a reply to 
Fox, Lord North disclaimed all intention of distressing 
our sugar colonies. If any provisions of the Bill should 
injuriously affect the West India planters, he was sorry 
for it ; but as things were now circumstanced that dan- 
ger could not be avoided. In civil convulsions, it was 
plain that many must suffer. If this measure was a good 
one, Parliament must take it with all the consequences. 
It was absurd to object that it would inflict temporary 
inconvenience and loss upon this body of men or that 
island, on this interest or that industry. Those were the 
common-places with which the prime minister of Great 
Britain excused himself for destroying the prosperity 
of what were now the most valuable colonies which his 
blundering policy had left to us. Times had changed 
since Sir Robert Walpole, standing on the same spot 
of the floor, had expounded and vindicated the system 
by which, during twenty years of peace, he fostered the 
ever-growing commerce of the empire. 

North's phrases did nothing to comfort those unhappy 
West Indians who saw the produce of their estates trans- 
formed by statute into prize money, to enrich Lord Sand- 
wich's favourite post-captains. The older and more 
timid among the owners of plantations, who were victims 
of this pitiless legislation, gave up the battle of life for 
lost, and waited patiently and submissively for the day 
when it should please their mortgagees to foreclose. 
The bolder spirits diverted what remained of their capi- 
tal into a line of business, the operators in which were 
altogether independent of Acts of Parliament. They 
gratified their anger, and at the same time turned many 
a dishonest dollar, by carrying on a contraband traffic 
with the revolted provdnces. So far from the evil being 
temporary, as North had assured the House of Com- 
mons, there were parts of the West Indies which all 


through the war were at least as disloyal as Philadelphia, 
and much more deeply disaffected than Charleston or 
Savannah. As early as the spring of 1776 the Chief 
Justice of the Bahamas reported that the town of Nas- 
sau, in the island of New Providence, treated the royal 
Governor with contempt, and that things could not be 
worse if the place had been sold to the rebels. And in 
1779 the Governor himself wrote to Lord Dartmouth as 
follows : " I lament exceedingly, my Lord, the necessity 
I am under in declaring to your Lordship that, since my 
arrival at the Government, I have been in a second Hell. 
The servants of the Crown, who are all engaged in carry- 
ing on an extensive and lucrative trade with the rebel- 
lious colonies, are now become the principal abettors." ^ 
The course of the Prohibitory B^U through the Lords 
was rapid, and at first promised to be untroubled. Even 
the Duke of Richmond had informed his leader that, 
since British merchants had been so backward to sup- 
port the Opposition in the country, he would not be at 
any pains to defend their interests in Parliament.^ But 
he had not taken count of his own fervid temperament. 
A discussion was raised on the Second Reading by the 
Duke of Manchester, — a Montagu who did not, like 
Sandwich, forget on which side their common ancestors 
had stood when English liberties were in question at 
Westminster and at Marston Moor. Manchester moved 
the rejection of the Bill, and was cleverly answered by 
the nobleman who, as long as the memory of him lasted, 
continued to be known by the appellation of the wicked 
Lord Lyttelton. He belonged to a family in which such 
a pre-eminence is very easily earned. Though much less 
good than other Lytteltons, in his own generation he 
seems to have been no worse, and as regarded pecuniary 
matters considerably more prudent, than plenty of other 
lords. He saved all the money that he gained at cards ; 
a proceeding which, in the opinion of his contemporaries, 

^ Historical Manuscripts Commission : Fourteenth Report, Appendix, 
Part X., page 503. 

* Richmond to Rockingham; Goodwood, Dec. 11, 1775. 


was apparently almost as reprehensible as if he had 
won that money unfairly. His private morals were not 
blameless ; but neither were they exceptionally scanda- 
lous when judged by the ideas of his time and class, and 
by the standard of the government to which he belonged. 
Lyttelton, at thirty years of age, and well outside the 
Cabinet, might plead the example of a Minister more 
advanced in life, and much more exalted and influential 
than himself ; for the Earl of Sandwich, — who was far 
on in the fifties, and had no intention whatever of re- 
forming when he got past sixty, — consorted openly with 
a mistress who, to the disgust of Lord Chatham's old 
admirals, did the honours, or dishonours, of the official 
residence at Whitehall. Nor, for the eighteenth cen- 
tury, was there anything particularly abnormal in Lyttel- 
ton's political record. When the Session commenced, 
as an independent peer, he had strongly condemned the 
Government measures ; and now, as Chief Justice in 
Eyre of the Counties north of Trent, he defended 
those measures with the audacity of a recent convert. 
It was idle, he affirmed, to talk as if the trade of the 
West Indies was seriously threatened. Men of business 
held the opposite opinion. The borough of Bewdley in 
Worcestershire had expressed no uneasiness in view of 
the operation of the Bill; and Bewdley, according to his 
generous computation, produced a full twelfth part of 
our annual exports. 

Lyttelton, as a Worcestershire land-owner, was in- 
fluenced by the respect which a squire feels towards the 
chief commercial town in his own neighbourhood ; but 
that circumstance did not excuse him in Richmond's 
eyes. Forgetting all about his grudge against the luke- 
warmness of the mercantile classes, the Duke sprang to 
his feet, and fell upon Lyttelton, and his market-town, 
and his political antecedents, and his recently adopted 
ministerial propensities, with an ardour which well be- 
came Charles Fox's uncle. *' My Lords," he exclaimed, 
" I pronounce this bill to be fraught with all possible 
injustice. I do not think the people of America in re- 


bellion. They are resisting acts of unexampled cruelty 
and oppression." There arose a frightful commotion. 
The peers, who supported ministers, shouted as if they 
were so many contractors and loan-mongers representing 
rotten boroughs in the Commons. The Earl of Den- 
bigh stigmatised Richmond's words as treasonable, and 
their speaker as a traitor. Lyttelton rose once more, 
and eagerly assured the House that Cicero would have 
severely reprobated such licentious language. The Cab- 
inet did not contain a Cicero, but they had always Sand- 
wich with them ; and Sandwich was ever ready with a 
Second, — or, if needed, a second-hundredth, — Philippic 
against the iniquities of the Colonists. The Bill, he con- 
fessed, might appear harsh ; but it did nothing more 
than encounter cruelty with cruelty. For the Americans 
were a barbarous, as well as dastardly, people ; and he 
could assure their Lordships that among other crimes 
they had put to death a negro of the name of Jerry, who 
was worth several hundred pounds. 

The assembly was by this time in a state of wrath and 
excitement which few orators would have cared to face ; 
but Richmond was not the man to be put down so long 
as he had a tongue in his head, or a rapier at his side. 
He spoke three times. He said straight out that he 
would not be intimidated, or deterred from his duty, by 
loud shouts or big words. He pretty plainly told 
Denbigh, who formerly passed for something of a Jacob- 
ite, that he, and such as he, were mighty poor author- 
ities on a question of treason. The Duke had borne 
himself gallantly ; but the aspect of Parliament was less 
reassuring than ever to the advocates of a peaceful set- 
tlement. A careful observer, not long afterwards, noted 
that the tone of the Government in the Lords had be- 
come much more aggressive than in the Commons ; and 
that even in the Commons the language used by Min- 
isters towards America grew more arbitrary, and men- 
acing, as the Session proceeded. The friends of the 
Administration had changed their style; all notions of 
temporising were laid aside ; and it was openly pro- 



claimed that force was the remedy, and that any attempt 
at concession or compromise would only add to the dif- 
ficulties of the situation.^ 

The most commanding preacher of this high doctrine 
was a public man of a very different stamp from Sand- 
wich or Lyttelton. Lord Mansfield had now attained 
the culminating point of a career, splendid in personal 
success, and productive of vast benefits not only to his 
country but to mankind. That career, which was still 
far from ending, had begun so long ago that the earlier 
associations connected with his name belonged to what 
was already a classical period of luiglish literature. 
Nearly forty years had passed since Alexander Pope 
had anticipated for William Murray a fame unsurpassed 
by the most admired orators of ancient or modern his- 
tory ; and twelve more years wore still to run before 
Lord Mansfield, amidst unusual marks of affection and 
respect, vacated the Chair of the Lord Chief Justice of 
England. In that Chair, for a generation and more, he 
set an example not only to Judges, but to all servants of 
the State. There had been hardly a day when he was 
absent from his duties. He swept away the artificial 
system of procrastination, and consequent expense, 
which had broken the hearts of countless suitors. When- 
ever an important judgement was delivered, people 
flocked to his Court as eagerly as to the Strangers' Gal- 
lery in the Mouse of Commons when a Chancellor of 
the Exchequer explains the Budget. Their expectation 
was seldom disappointed. The silvery tones, the dig- 
nified manner, the sparing but impressive gestures, which 
had so long charmed Parliament, were admirably suited 
to a judicial allocution. And the substance of Lord 
Mansfield's disquisitions was worthy of the vehicle. 
Before he retired into private life, he had completed the 
task of enlarging and defining the scope of the Common 
Law, and applying it to the infinite, and ever new, re- 
quirements of a rich and highly civilised community. 
Nor was his action confined to the more material and 

1 Annual Register for 1 776 ; " History of Europe," chapter vii. 


prosaic needs of his own and of coming ages. There 
are few notable principles of liberty, of humanity, of 
natural justice, and of supreme public utility, which 
were not aptly illustrated and immovably established in 
one or another of those celebrated decisions. 

Lord Mansfield, who could not help being pre-eminent 
whether he was doing right or wrong, is the most con- 
spicuous instance of the value of the maxim that a judge 
should not be a partisan. In his wise hour, no one was 
more profoundly convinced of that truth than himself. 
He three times statedly refused the Chancellorship; and 
that great office, (it is hardly too much to assert,) was 
always open to his acceptance from 1756, when Lord 
Hardwicke resigned the Seals, until Lord Thurlow 
assumed them in 1778. But, though he would not 
desert the King's Bench, Lord Mansfield long retained 
a hankering for political work and political influence. 
He sat in Cabinets ; he presided over the deliberations 
of the Lords in the character, and with the salary, of 
their Speaker ; for three months he was nominally, at 
any rate, Chancellor of the Exchequer ; and, when party 
fighting grew hot, he frequently descended into the 
melee. But his heart was all the while set upon the due 
performance of his judicial functions. He could not 
give the requisite time and thought to affairs of State ; 
and, if he had consulted his reputation and his self- 
respect, he would have abstained altogether from public 
controversy. Parliament after Parliament, while he still 
was in the House of Commons, he had held his own 
with William Pitt. But in the Lords his lifelong antag- 
onist outmatched and overcame him ; and on more than 
one occasion he was buffeted and flouted by adversaries, 
not despicable indeed, but far less formidable than Lord 

Mansfield, to please the Court, adopted quarrels so 
far from just that he came to them, not thrice-armed, 
but equipped with an altogether incomplete and ineffec- 
tive legal panoply. And, (what was even more unfor- 
tunate,) his senatorial action was of a nature to impair 



his authority, and cast suspicion on his fairness, as a 
Judge. Through all the miserable business of the 
Middlesex election, the Ministry were continually en- 
deavouring to punish in the law-courts those opponents 
by whom they had been out-argued in the newspapers. 
Oppressive prosecutions of publishers and printers in 
the King's Bench alternated with angry, and sometimes 
undignified, debates in the House of Lords ; and Mans- 
field too often had to pick his way back out of the tumult 
with his composure ruffled and his ermine soiled. His 
fame suffered, and his comfort was sorely disturbed, by 
attacks compounded in deadly proportions out of truth 
and calumny by the infernal skill of Junius. Before 
1775 that storm had been finally laid, and the Lord 
Chief Justice was again in calm water. But the 
American question then became acute ; and ministers 
felt themselves so weak in the House of Lords that they 
could not dispense with the assistance of their doughty 
ally. That assistance was given by Lord Mansfield 
without stint, and with no thought for the consequences 
to his own reputation and popularity. His advice to 
his countrymen, — as the mature fruit of his wisdom 
and experience, — was that they should decline the 
friendly advances of Congress, and rely, for the re- 
covery of their American colonies, upon force, and upon 
force alone. On the third reading of the Prohibitory 
Bill he bore the main burden of debate. He summed 
up his argument in an anecdote which soon ran the 
round of England and America ; and able opponents of 
the Government in both countries took care to extract, 
out of what was at best a most unlucky utterance, the 
utmost amount of horror which it was capable of yield- 
ing. The relations of the mother-country and the 
revolted colonies, (so Lord Mansfield declared,) recalled 
to his mind an address made by a general of Gustavus 
Adolphus to his soldiers on the eve of battle. " Point- 
ing to the enemy, who were marching down to engage 
them, he said: *My lads, you see those men. If you 
do not kill them, they will kill us.' " 



Those were the terms on which, in the view of Lord 
Mansfield, the armies of Great Britain went forth to 
reconquer her thirteen provinces ; for nothing short of 
a reconquest the undertaking would have to be. In 
King's Speeches His Majesty was still made to talk 
about "my colonies," and "my subjects in America." 
He might just as well, (so an Opposition journalist 
remarked,) have spoken of *'my kingdom of France." 
Whatever words his advisers put into his mouth, George 
the Third understood, more fully and much sooner than 
any of them, the reality which he and they had to face. 
He discountenanced their tattle about American cow- 
ardice. He awakened them sharply out of their Fool's 
Paradise, and forced them to follow him into a course 
of vigilant and unsparing toil. In a surprisingly short 
space of time his energy had created the means of 
grappling with a task the dimensions of which his in- 
sight had promptly recognised. His fleets conveyed to 
the scene of action a host more than twice as large as 
that which Philip the Second of Spain placed on board 
the Great Armada. In 1775 the Secretary at War had 
informed the French Ambassador that three columns of 
attack, amounting in all to between forty and fifty 
thousand men, would converge upon the centre of the 
rebellion from Boston, New York, and Canada. Boston, 
now in the hands of the enemy, could no longer be 
reckoned upon as a base of operations. The invading 
force which marched in the summer of 1776 was, indeed, 
not less strong by a single soldier than Lord Barrington 



had anticipated ; but it was in two divisions, instead of 
in three ; and the Southern portion, on which the brunt 
of the work fell, was more readily handled, and far more 
formidable, when acting as an undivided army under the 
personal superintendence of one and the same general. 

The Northern expedition was commanded by General 
Guy Carleton, the Governor of Canada. His record as 
an officer was better than fair. He had been placed to 
the front at the capture of Quebec, of the Havannah, 
and of Belleisle on the coast of Brittany ; and he was 
wounded on each of those throe notable occasions. 
Carleton had learned to fight in Pitt's war ; and he was 
taught something even more important than the art of 
soldiering by a close observation of Pitt's policy. In 
that age of slow travel, and precarious communications, 
it was a distinct public advantage that, at critical times 
and in distant regions, the civil and military authority 
should be in the same hands ; if only those hands had 
the right sort of head and heart to direct them. Carle- 
ton was a sagacious, and a very good, man ; and his 
goodness and wisdom together, when all else was lost, 
[)reserved Canada to the empire. 

If anything could by any possibility be accurately 
foretold in war and politics, it would have seemed most 
unlikely that England should succeed in retaining the 
district north of the St. Lawrence at a time when the 
English-speaking provinces, for whose sake and by 
whose aid we had wrested that district from France, 
were in open and hot insurrection. So far were the 
Canadians from speaking English that not four people 
in a thousand talked anything except the old seventeenth 
century French which had been brought across the 
ocean in the days of Frontenac and La Salle ; — the 
French which may be heard in Canada still. ^ The 

1" Lord North. Does the General know the proportion of old subjects 
to those of new ones in Canada ? 

General Carleton. The Protestants in Canada are under 400; about 
360 ; but the French inhabitants, who are all Catholics, amount to 

Examination of General Carleton before the House of Commons in 
Committee : June 2, 1774. 


country was intensely Catholic. Very few books were 
read ; and those few had certainly not been written by 
Voltaire. The priests were respected and powerful, as 
their character and conduct merited ; and by far the 
most important factor in Canadian politics was the 
goodwill of the Bishop. A land system on lines of 
strict feudaUty was everywhere in force. The seignior 
held his estates from the Crown, and granted them to 
his vassals on condition of a fixed and moderate annual 
payment. The vassals were bound to grind their corn 
in the seignior's mill, to bake their loaves in his oven, 
and to hand over to him every tenth salmon which they 
caught in his waters. This population, with nothing 
Anglo-Saxon in its composition, and which even the 
peasants of rural La Vendee would have regarded 
as behind the times, was ceded to Great Britain by 
the Treaty of Paris in 1763, and soon found itself in 
strange conditions. The British governed Canada with 
equity and benevolence, but after a fashion sadly want- 
ing in imagination, and altogether incomprehensible to 
their new subjects. A constitution was granted, in 
principle more liberal and democratic than that enjoyed 
by England and Wales then ; or, indeed, in one respect 
than that enjoyed now ; for the payment of tithe to the 
clergy was no longer enforced by the State. French 
Civil Law was superseded by the Common Law of 
England, enriched with all Lord Mansfield's most recent 
improvements. A Court of King's Bench was set up, 
and a Court of Common Pleas, in both of which the pro- 
ceedings were in the English form. The people were 
emancipated from the liability of being imprisoned under 
lettres de cacJict^ — a danger that had never greatly 
disturbed them ; and they obtained trial by jury, which 
they heartily abominated.^ Above all, Canada received 
the inestimable boon of self-government, in the shape of 

^ "Mr. Mackworth. Did they disapprove the trial by jury ? 

General Carleton. Very much. They have often said to me that they 
thought it very extraordinary that English gentlemen should think their 
property safer in the determination of taylors and shoemakers than in that 
of the Judges." 


a parliament from which no one was excluded who had 
taken the oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, together 
with the declaration against Transubstantiation. As may 
well be believed, it was a parliament that never met ; and 
the administration was carried on by the Governor, with 
the co-operation of an executive Co\incil, the members of 
which the Governor himself selected and nominated. 

The outward semblance of British institutions was 
accompanied by the substance of British pubHc spirit 
and financial probity. Canada, as a dependency of 
France, had been the prey of corrupt officials. It was 
a country, as Montcalm bitterly acknowledged, where 
all the knaves grew rich, and true men were ruined. 
But administrative honesty came in with EngHsh rule ; 
and the effects of that salutary change were all the 
more visible because Canada, almost for the first time 
in her history, enjoyed real and stable peace. The 
French Government had treated the province as a mili- 
tary outpost, and its people as the garrison. In seed- 
time or in harvest, — when the creeks were swarming 
with fish, and choice fur was selUng at Albany or 
Boston almost for its weight in silver,^ — the farmers 
and trappers who lived within the French border were 
torn from their occupations, and marched off to fight 
along the Alleghany and the Susquehanna, or to spend 
winter after winter huddled into forts and blockhouses 
in regions even more remote from their homes. There 
was no respite from their involuntary toils and perils. 
Even during those rare intervals when war was not de- 
clared between the mother-countries, French and Eng- 
lish settlers were constructing earthworks, and planning 

^ An English oflRcer wrote from Montreal in 1777 : " Caprice and novelty 
has made these furs more or less in fashion. That they are so with a wit- 
ness, the enormous price your sister gave for a muff and tippet is a con- 
vincing proof. Here they are very dear : the commonest fur cap standing 
you in two guineas." Beaver skins ruled high ; and sables ranged between 
four and twelve guineas. Even with regaid to the more common sorts a 
Boston merchant reported in 1774, ** Red Fox are at thirty-five shillings ; 
Minks at thirty-three shillings and ninepence." The letter is among the 
papers of Mr. Russell Sturgis, privately printed at Oxford, 


ambushes, and getting each other scalped and toma- 
hawked, in the valley of the Ohio. The Canadians had 
been military colonists every whit as much as the Cos- 
sacks of the Don, with a far less acute enjoyment of the 
situation ; but, as soon as they became British subjects, 
that period of storm and stress was over. Thenceforward 
on the Continent of America there was no one for them 
to fight, unless they themselves thought fit to get up a 

Not the least important contribution to the security of 
the province was the firm and temperate attitude which 
the British Government maintained in dealing with the 
primaeval inhabitants of the American wilderness. The 
history of Canada, for the first two centuries, was red and 
lurid with the periodical outbreaks of that ill-used and, 
(whenever it found an excuse for misconduct,) most ill- 
conditioned family of mankind. French villages were 
laid in ashes, and French Missions delivered over to tor- 
ture and murder under circumstances which, in the es- 
timation of their Church, qualified the victims for the 
honours of martyrdom. But the English authorities, 
while they did not neglect military precautions, endeav- 
oured to acquire the confidence of the Indians, and in- 
spire them with an interest in the preservation of order. 
The red man was placed in safe possession of his hunt- 
ing-grounds; and private adventurers were effectually 
restrained from practising on the fatal facility for divest- 
ing himself of his property which beset him when within 
scent of a whisky-cask. So commenced, (as a local histo- 
rian truly remarks,) that just and honest policy towards 
the Indians which has ever since been followed by the 
government of Canada.^ The signs of improved adminis- 
tration soon became apparent on the surface of society. 
Trade and agriculture revived, and by the end of ten 

^ This observation is made by Mr. J. Bourinot, Honorary Secretary of 
the Royal Society of Canada. " Lands," Mr. Bourinot writes, " could be 
alienated by the Indians only at some public meeting or assembly called 
for that special purpose by the Governor or Commander-in-Chief where 
such lands were situated." 


years had reached an amazing development. Nothing 
was wanting except some reasonable concession to that 
national sentiment the due recof^nition of which con- 
duces, even more than commercial prosperity, to the 
establishment of national happiness and tranquillity. 

When Carleton had resided long enough in Canada 
to have thoroughly mastered the needs of the province, 
he returned to luigland, and apphcd himself to the task 
of indoctrinating the Ministry with his own broad and 
sound views. That process demanded a much more 
protracted leave of absence than he had originally con- 
templated ; but he comforted himself by reflecting that 
he was better employed when furthering the interests of 
his colony in London than if, (like Governor liernard 
and Governor Hutchinson, ) he was undermining those 
interests in despatches written on the spot, and filled 
with abuse of the people over whom he had been ap- 
pointed to rule. In the spring of 1774 Carleton's oppor- 
tunity came. Ministers were then engaged on the penal 
laws directed against the town of lioston and the colony 
of Massachusetts ; and Carleton persuaded them to in- 
sert into that batch of vindictive and provocative meas- 
ures a bill framed with the object of conciliating Canada. 
His advice was all the more readily adopted by the 
Court party because the pro|)osed enactment was in- 
tensely offensive to the prejudices of New England. 
The bill " for making more Effectual Provision for the 
Government of the Province of C)uebec " relieved Roman 
CathoHcs from all tests whatsoever, save and except the 
oath of Allegiance. The clergy of the old religion were 
permitted to conduct their worship in freedom, and to 
claim " their accustomed dues " from such persons as 
professed their creed. Questions of property, and of 
civil rights, were to be decided according to French 
legal procedure ; while criminal cases were reserved for 
the English law. It was a rational distinction. The 
Criminal law of England, severe as it then was according 
to our modern notions, at all events excluded the use of 
physical torture, — or of that moral torture, almost more 


perilous to the innocent, which has not yet disappeared 
from investigations conducted by French tribunals.^ 

Other provisions of the bill were more open to damag- 
ing criticism. The Canadian parliament was abolished ; 
if that can be said of an assembly which never had a 
corporate existence. Law-making was entrusted to a 
Legislative Council appointed by the Crown ; and the 
boundaries of the Province were extended to the Ohio 
and the Mississippi. The whole area covered by what 
are now the States of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, \Viscon- 
sin, and Illinois was converted into a Crown Colony 
arbitrarily ruled from Downing Street. Such was the 
condition to which it was the intention of North and 
Sandwich to reduce a vast region, which had before it an 
unhmited future of progress and civilisation. But this 
part of the scheme existed only on paper ; and, in order 
to turn it into a concrete fact, many thousand reams of 
that commodity would have to be burned in cartridges. 

The Quebec bill had faults ; but the main plan was 
strongly conceived and boldly filled in. "From among 
the truculently impolitic laws, by which it is surrounded 
in the Statute-book, it stands out as the work of states- 

^ In 1834 Macaulay went to India, for the purpose of drawing up that 
Penal Code which has met with acceptance and approbation from our 
leading jurists. In his cabin, on the way out, he studied and annotated 
with minute care Baron Locre's treatise on the Civil, Commercial, and 
Criminal Legislation of France. " I believe," Macaulay wrote on the 
margin of the seventh chapter, " that the commercial law of France, like 
that of England, was in a very good state before the Revolution. It 
required not to be amended, but to be consolidated and digested." 

It was, however, very different when he came to the portion of the 
book relating to the Criminal procedure of old France ; — to the secret 
inquisition ; the refusal of legal assistance to the accused ; the power, in 
many cases, given to judges of arbitrarily allotting to the criminal any 
punishment which they chose ; and, above all, the horrible nature of the 
punishments, (as Locre describes them,) " the pincers, the melted lead 
poured into the wounds, the wheel, and the furnace." Those paragraphs 
are freely scored with such pencil notes as " Odious ! " "A most absurd 
practice." " Altogether detestable ! " Locre introduced into his text a 
rather misty anecdote about a compliment paid to the French Criminal 
law, at the expense of England, by a personage entitled Le Grand-Juge 
d'Angleterre. "What Grand-Juge? " Macaulay wrote. "Our penal code 
is bad enough; but Monsieur le Baron Locre is an ass." 


men, and not of policemen. The speakers of the Oppo- 
sition, naturally but most unfortunately, were not in a 
mood to discriminate between what was good, and what 
was bad, in the ministerial recommendations. They 
threw in their lot with the three or four hundred English 
people scattered throughout the province, who assumed 
to themselves the invidious title of " old subjects," and 
who clamorously insisted that the civil and ecclesiastical 
vestments of Canada should be cut according to EngHsh 
pattern. In order to enlist the sympathy of Noncon- 
formists against the bill, the Whigs raised, feebly and 
unsuccessfully, a cry of No Popery; — that ill-omened 
watchword which, in after days, was often employed for 
their discomfiture by opponents who understood, better 
than they, the art of turning national passion to politi- 
cal account. So high did party spirit run that the most 
respected adherents of Rockingham and Chatham re- 
sorted to this unworthy device. Before the debates on 
the Quebec Act finally closed, the Peers were treated 
to the astonishing spectacle of Lord Camden being 
inipressively and most properly rebuked by Lord Lyttel- 
ton. The principles of the bill, (that eminent moralist 
contended,) emanated from the Gospels, and breathed 
the spirit of early and unadulterated Christianity. They 
were principles not, as Camden had averred, of Popery 
and servitude, but of toleration unfettered by odious 
restrictions. It was a great and judicious measure; 
calculated, by the beneficence of its aspect, to remove 
those rooted prejudices which were carefully instilled 
into the minds of all, who had at any time been the sub- 
jects of France, against the laws and the institutions of 

Having secured the Quebec Act, General Carleton 
hastened back to his province, and made his prepara- 
tions for meeting the storm which was soon to break. 
He had only a handful of troops ; but that want was 
more than counterbalanced now that he possessed the 
means of assuring the fidelity of the civil population. 
He at once proceeded to place eight Roman Catholics 



upon the Legislative Council. He arranged that the 
members should be at liberty to debate either in 
French or Enghsh, and that the ordinances which they 
framed should be published in both languages. He 
had acquired the warm co-operation of the Bishop, and 
the confidence and support of the seigniors ; greatly to 
the annoyance of the nobility in France, who fav- 
oured the American Revolution, and thought it a very 
fine thing that all men should be born free and equal so 
long as it was not in their own hemisphere. The mer- 
chants and large shop-keepers of Quebec, who alone 
among the British inhabitants of the province had much 
to lose, dreaded an invasion, and were quite prepared to 
fight for the protection of their property whenever 
Carleton should give the signal. American patriots 
had great hopes of the French farmers ; and, if those 
hopes had been well founded, it would have mattered 
very little how the rest of the Canadian population had 
felt and acted. The Congress at Philadelphia issued a 
spirited address, calling upon the tillers of the soil to 
assert themselves against the aristocracy, and appealing 
to the immortal doctrines taught by Montesquieu and 
Beccaria. But in a community where there was only 
one printing house, and that an English one, those 
great names had no meaning for anybody except the 
priests ; and the priests feared and suspected the French 
political philosopher less indeed, but not very much less, 
than they detested the Italian philanthropist. The mass 
of the rural people adored their clergy, and had no 
quarrel with their seigniors. The most obtuse and inob- 
servant peasants had already learned that a feudal 
superior, under British rule, would have to be exceed- 
ingly careful lest any well-founded complaint should be 
made of the manner in which he exercised his privileges.^ 

1 The very able author of the "History of Europe," in the Annual 
Register of 1776, acknowledges the anti-American attitude of Canadians, 
both French and English, frankly but rather reluctantly. The event com- 
pletely stultified many predictions made during the discussions in Parlia 
ment by that political party to which the writer belonged. 


Armed with his new Constitution, and as yet with 
little besides, Carleton made head, as best he could, 
against the American invasion. The earlier exploits of 
the colonists were conducted with energy, and crowned 
with ahnost uniform success. In the May of 1775 
Ticonderoga, the key which locked the chain of lakes 
running north and south between the Hudson and the 
St. Lawrence, had fallen before them as easily as Jericho 
fell to Joshua ; and, in the early autumn of the same 
year, a column of two thousand militia marched to the 
attack of Canada.^ The expedition was led by Richard 
Montgomery, who was of good Irish birth, and whose 
excellent abilities, and singularly loveablc nature, had 
been refined by a liberal education. He served under 
Wolfe with credit, while still a lad ; and he had but 
lately attained the good military age of five-and-thirty, 
— no small advantage for a general whose enemy had 
to be sought, at the cost of infinite toil and hardship, on 
the further side of an almost pathless wilderness. 

Montgomery made his way through marsh and 
thicket, against violent headwinds on Lake Champlain, 
and amid treacherous rapids as he descended the Sorel 
river. At length he arrived before the fort of St. John's, 
which blocked the water highway at a point some twenty 
jniles to the southeast of Montreal. The English gen- 
eral attempted to raise the siege, but was badly beaten ; 
and on the third of November the place and the garri- 
son were surrendered to Montgomery. Carleton, by 
one stroke, was deprived of more than half the regular 
troops whom he had at his disposal. The gateway of 
his province was beaten in. Eleven l^ritish vessels, 
with crews and stores on board, fell into the hands of 
the Americans. Montreal was occupied without resist- 
ance ; the approaches to Quebec were beset by the 
enemy ; and the royal Governor with difficulty contrived 
to enter his own capital in the darkest hour of the night, 
and dressed as a peasant. 

^ At the end of this volume will be found a map of the country between 
Quebec and Albany, adapted from Marshall's Life of Washington^ pub- 
lished at Philadelphia in 1807. 



One solitary reverse befell the invaders ; and even 
that was something of a blessing in disguise to their 
cause. Among Montgomery's colonels was Ethan Allen, 
who had captured Ticonderoga in the name of the Great 
Jehovah. On the strength of that achievement he ob- 
tained a detached command, and took the earliest oppor- 
tunity of falling upon the British in true Old Testament 
style. His projected operation, in the outline of the 
plan, and the numbers and distribution of the assault- 
ing force, bore a curious resemblance to the enterprise 
of Gideon ; but the event was different. The larger of 
Allen's two bands did not appear at the appointed time 
and place ; and he, together with his own small follow- 
ing, was made a prisoner. His part in the Revolution, 
memorable and serviceable as it had been, was played 
out. The tidings of his misadventure affected his mili- 
tary superiors with something very like a sense of relief. 
It would have been far from easy for Washington to 
find Ethan Allen employment which would both suit 
and satisfy him, now that the war had got to a stage 
altogether beyond the tactics of the Book of Judges.^ 

Meanwhile danger was advancing upon Canada from 
another quarter. Washington had despatched from 
the camp before Boston a detachment of picked soldiers 
under the guidance of Benedict Arnold. Arnold was a 
New Englander, well born, and most certainly well sea- 
soned. During the course of a wandering life, he shot 
in a duel a British captain who had sworn at him for a 
Yankee. The unfortunate officer was in the right, if 
only he had expressed his opinion in more becoming 
language ; for Arnold was abundantly endowed with the 
restless vigour, and variety of resource, which marked 

^ Mr. Bancroft, who seldom bears hardly on a celebrity of the Revolu- 
tion, admitted that Allen was dazzled by vanity and rash ambition. 
"Washington made known his opinion in very plain words. "Colonel 
Allen's misfortune," he wrote to General Schuyler, "will, I hope, teach a 
lesson of prudence and subordination to others who may be too ambitious 
to outshine their general officers, and, regardless of order and duty, rush 
into enterprises which have unfavourable effects on the public, and are 
destructive to themselves." 


the race of men bred between the Hudson and the sea. 
When fifteen years old he ran away from home to fight 
the French on the northern frontier. Disgusted with 
miUtary service, — for some unknown motive, which may 
have been anything except disHke of the smell of 
powder, — he returned to New England, having trav- 
ersed the intervening forest without a companion. He 
made his living as clerk in a store, then as a shop-keeper, 
and afterwards as a foreign merchant who sailed as his 
own supercargo. After the Revolutionary war had 
broken out, Arnold never missed an occasion for show- 
ing the stuff of which he was made. He was as im- 
petuous a forward fighter as Marshal Ney ; and he was 
destined to an even more terrible fate. 

With a courage proof against all the trials and labours 
of war he started on an expedition compared with which 
Montgomery's advance upon St. John's was a holiday 
parade. His route lay up the Kennebec, down the 
Chaudit^re, and across the rugged and savage uplands 
which separated the sources of the two rivers. The 
fallen timber of centuries had choked the channels ; and 
the water-shed was deep in snow. Provisions failed. 
The travellers soon became barefoot, and their clothes 
were torn off their backs by thorns. They towed their 
little boats up to the waists in water. They retraced 
some sections of their march three or four times over in 
order to bring up the baggage of the party, and their 
sick and dying comrades. After the first six weeks 
they subsisted on roots and berries, and the game which 
they could make shift to snare or shoot. They had 
hauled the barges by sheer strength of arm up a hun- 
dred and eighty miles of current, and had carried them 
across forty miles of broken ground. They started 
eleven hundred in number on the nineteenth of Sep- 
tember. On the nineteenth of November Arnold, with 
six hundred and seventy-five men who had come through 
the journey alive, selected a position on the St. Law- 
rence, eight leagues above Quebec, and there awaited 
the arrival of Montgomery. 


On the third of December Montgomery came to the 
rendezvous, bringing with him a force which the exigen- 
cies and losses of the campaign had reduced even below 
what Arnold could muster. But heroism is independent 
of numbers ; and the siege of Quebec at once began. 
There was a hero on both sides of the wall. Carleton, 
though brave as a lion, passes among writers for an in- 
different strategist. He was, however, a justly popular 
ruler and a most capable organiser ; and the state of 
affairs was such that his special qualities and aptitudes 
now came splendidly into play. He had with him a 
poor three hundred red-coats ; if that name can be ap- 
plied to soldiers who had worn their uniforms in those 
latitudes, and at that season, through months of fright- 
ful weather and almost continuous disaster ; but his 
humane and dexterous policy had united the whole 
population of the city and the neighbourhood in ardent 
support of the British cause. ^ He landed five or six 
hundred seamen and marines, and allotted them their 
posts in the circle of the defence ; and he enrolled 
about as many French Canadians, together with every 
English burgess who was not too young, or very much 
too old, to carry a musket. The Americans assaulted 
Quebec on the night which divided the years 1775 and 
1776; but they found the English awake and expecting 
them. Montgomery was killed ; Arnold fell severely 
wounded ; and three or four hundred of the assailants 
remained as prisoners in the hands of the garrison. 

Arnold, with a leg disabled, was worth more than an 
average general who had every limb whole. With a 
remnant of dejected American minute-men, and a few 
hundred Canadian allies who had begun to perceive 
that they had thrown in their lot with the losing party, 
he maintained a front such that he imposed respect on 
Carleton, and kept up the appearance of an effective 

^ " With respect to the better sort of people, both French and English, 
seven eighths are Tories, who would wish to see our throats cut, and 
perhaps would readily assist in doing it." Colonel Hazen to Major- 
General Schuyler, from Montreal, April i, 1776. 



investment of the city. He was joined erelong by 
several detachments of militia, who marched to his 
support in considerable numbers from New England, 
from the Jerseys, and from Pennsylvania. They were 
bent on avenging Montgomery and eradicating the last 
v^estige of British rule from the soil of their Continent ; 
but they paid a heavy toll, in life and health, along the 
road to Canada; and, on reaching their destination, 
they found themselves in a scene of disease, destitution, 
and misery. The American army was wasted by small- 
pox; the French inhabitants would bring in no suppHes 
that were not paid for in ready money, and of ready 
money there was none left ; while in the magazines there 
remained something over one hundred-weight of gun- 
powder, and provisions for a very few days. General 
Thomas, — marked out for preferment on account of 
his having superintended the occupation of Dorchester 
Heights which decided the event at Boston, — had been 
appointed by Congress to the command in Canada. On 
the first of May, 1776, he arrived at the camp before 
Quebec, and ascertained that, of the forces which Arnold 
and Montgomery had brought, and of the militia who 
had come northward since, there remained less than 
two thousand men, of whom half were in hospital, and 
all on the brink of starvation. 

Before anotlier week was out three English ships of 
war, the first swallows of the military summer, forced 
their way through the ice on the St. Lawrence, carrying 
reinforcements which enabled Carleton to take the 
offensive. He sallied from the gates with six field- 
pieces, and two strong columns of infantry ; whereas 
three hundred men were the utmost that General 
Thomas could succeed in concentrating from his ex- 
tended and denuded lines. The Americans fled, leav- 
ing behind them all their artillery, and a large number 
of their sick. These poor people were sadly anxious 
about the treatment in store for them, and crept from 
bed to search for a hiding-place. But Carleton, who had 
his own ideas of the spirit in which policy demanded 


that a civil war should be conducted, issued a proclama- 
tion inviting them to come and be nursed in the city, 
and promising that they should have liberty to return 
home as soon as they were sufficiently recovered to 
undertake the journey.^ General Thomas, closely pur- 
sued for many miles, continued to retreat until he 
reached the town of Sorel, where the river bearing that 
name discharges itself into the St. Lawrence. The for- 
tune of war had turned decisively ; and those denizens 
of the country who were not stable and convinced politi- 
cians, but who liked fighting both for its own sake and 
for what they could get by it, now chose their side in 
grim earnest. A force composed of Indian warriors 
and French hunters and trappers, with a small nucleus 
of British regulars, beat up the American quarters to 
the west of Montreal, and captured nearly five hundred 

A transient gleam of hope brightened the darkness 
which had begun to settle down upon the prospects of 
the invaders. Washington, sorely grudging, had sent to 
Canada three thousand of his best infantry under the 
orders of General John Sullivan. A countryman of 
Montgomery, Sullivan was the best of good fellows, and 
a partisan true and tough as blackthorn ; but in some 
respects he was not the most valuable sort of Irishman. 
While fighting under Washington's personal supervision 
he was an effective, and, indeed, a splendid officer ; but 
it was otherwise when he acted on his own account at 
a distance from his chief. One of those fatal generals 
with whom America has been cursed in every war which 
she has ever waged, he was too loyal, too bustling, 
and too popular to be passed over where it was a ques- 

1 Carleton's Order, dated Chamble, August 7, 1776, ran thus: "All 
prisoners from the rebellious provinces, who chuse to return home, are to 
hold themselves in readiness to embark on a short notice. The Com- 
missary, Mr. Murray, shall visit the transport destined to them, to see 
that wholesome provisions, necessary cloathing, with all conveniences for 
their carriage, be prepared for these unfortunate men. They are to look 
upon their respective provinces as their prison, and remain there until 
further enlarged." 



tion of a separate and independent command ; although 
the operations for which, in that capacity, he was respon- 
sible never went quite right, and sometimes resulted in 
egregious failure. The troops whom Washington had 
despatched reached Sorel on the fifth of June, 1776. 
Three days previously General Thomas had died of the 
small-pox ; and Sullivan assumed the command with a 
sense of exuberant enjoyment. The right man for the 
place, if ink won battles, he at once proceeded to relieve 
the heart of his overburdened chief by imj)arting to him 
his own cheerful reading of the military and political 
situation. "I have no doubt," he wrote, "of the gen- 
eral attachment of the Canadians, though I suppose 
some unprincipled wretches among them will appear 
against us. I find by their present behaviour that the 
only reason of their disaffection was because our exer- 
tions were so feeble that they doubted of our success. 
But the face of affairs seems to be changed. They 
begin to complain of their priests, and wish them to be 
secured. I shall, however, touch this string with great 
tenderness, as I know their sacerdotal influence." 

It was an epistle of the kind which poor Washing- 
ton was fated often to receive from certain of his lieu- 
tenants. Himself the most modest and matter-of-fact 
of very great men, he became the unwilling confidant of 
as enormous an amount of extravagant and bombastic 
writing as ever found its way into official correspond- 
ence. He endured the infliction always with imperturb- 
ability, and, (where he knew the writer to be honest,) 
almost angelic indulgence. On this occasion, as in 
duty bound, he forwarded Sullivan's despatch to Con- 
gress, with a covering letter which placed in the most 
favourable light that general's qualifications for the 
command of the American army in Canada. But the 
army was in Canada no longer. Sullivan had been in a 
hurry to impress upon the French inhabitants that, (as 
his letter put it,) the day of feeble exertions was over. 
But he studied his ground badly. Carleton was already 
very strong, and became stronger week by week, as 


reinforcements successively arrived from England, Ire- 
land, and Germany. The British front had been ad- 
vanced to the village of Three Rivers, only five-and- 
twrenty miles from Sorel ; although the St. Lawrence, 
widened into the lake of St. Peter, lay between the two 
places. Sullivan sent an expedition to surprise the post ; 
but General Eraser, who was in charge of Three Rivers, 
had been warned of what was coming, and was in very 
much larger force than his adversary knew. The sur- 
prise went the inverse way from what had been intended. 
The Americans were completely routed ; and, as under 
those circumstances people will, they tried to make up in 
words for what they had come short in deeds. A letter 
written by one of them, some days after the engage- 
ment, speaks of it as an agreeable piece of news. Only 
a score of the colonists had fallen, while vast havoc had 
been made in the British ranks. A chaplain, who 
claimed to have stood by and viewed the whole scene, 
said that the slaughter was as great as at Bunker's 
Hill.^ But according to Carleton, who was a very un- 
likely man to falsify a return, only about a dozen of 
Eraser's people were dead or disabled. The American 
brigadier, and two hundred of his troops, remained in 
British custody ; the rest of them made a very undigni- 
fied withdrawal ; and, if the colonists had as few killed 
and wounded as they said, it was far from a matter for 

Sullivan took the repulse very seriously. " I now," he 
wrote, ** think only of a glorious death, or a victory ob- 
tained against superior numbers." But on the four- 
teenth of June the English fleet, with Carleton's army 
on board, moved up the river under full sail ; and the 
American commander had the good sense to see that yet 
a third alternative was open to him. He broke up his 
camp, and retreated homewards, never reposing until he 
was behind the lines of Crown Point, at the further ex- 
tremity of Lake Champlain, some ten or twelve miles to 
the north of Ticonderoga. The pursuit was languid ; 

1 American Archives ; letter of June 12 from St. John's. 


but the sufferings of the colonial militia from disease, 
and want of food, and utter destitution of everything 
which makes fatigue and exposure tolerable, were ap- 
palling. During the remainder of that summer Crown 
Point was a charnel-house. Thirty new graves were 
dug daily ; and it was reckoned that, in little over two 
months, the American army of the North had lost by 
desertion and death more than five thousand mcn.^ 

That army, had the British been able to push their 
success home, would not have escaped defeat, or rather 
dissolution ; for power of resistance it had none. Carle- 
ton was amply provided with troops, if only he could 
have conveyed them without let or hindrance direct to 
the point where victory awaited him. The ardour and 
industry of George the Third had placed in the hands of 
his general material means, plentiful enough to have 
satisfied even a monarch who was going to command 
his army himself. Brigadier Riedcsel,''^ with the con- 
tingents from Ihunswick and Waldeck, landed at Que- 
bec on the first of June; in time to present himself, 
attended by the whole body of his officers, at the levee 
which the Governor held on the King's birthday. The 
ranks of the l^ritish regiments were lull, and the soldiers 
in high health and buoyant humour. The train of 
artillery was thought to be the finest that ever had been 
sent from England. It was commanded by General 
Phillips, a shrewd veteran who, according to mess-room 
tradition, split fifteen canes on the flanks of his 

^ The British, as they urged the pursuit of the retreating army, were ac- 
quaintcil with the plight cjf their enemy. A soldier in the advance-guard, 
who later in life turned historian, wrote thus : " Tliey were encumbered 
with great numbers lal)ouring under that clreadful disease, small-pox, 
which is so fatal in .\merica. It was said that two regiments had not a 
single man in health : another had only six, and a fourth only forty; and 
two more were nearly in the same condition." An Original and Authen- 
tic Journal of Occurrences during the late American War, by R. Lamb, 
Late Sergeant of the Royal Welsh Fuziliers ; Dublin, 1809. 

2 It is on record, — as indicating the British soldier's small acquaint- 
ance with the language of his allies, and the difticulty he must have found 
in profiting by their conversation, — that our rank and hie habitually pro- 
nounced the Brunswicker's name as " Red Hazel." 


draught-horses when he was bringing up the guns at 
Minden. The best of the Canadian mihtia flocked to 
the standards of a chief who had inspired them with a 
sincere loyalty, and a sense of civic dignity and self- 
respect not altogether to the taste of our subalterns.^ 
The Governor had been forced by peremptory orders 
from London to arm and employ Indians : but he 
steadily refused to commit his own and our national hon- 
our to their more than questionable keeping. He main- 
tained control over each tribe through a trusty agent of 
his own selection ; and an American writer, who does not 
love the English, has adjured history to preserve the 
fact that, though often urged to let savages loose upon 
the rebel provinces, in his detestation of cruelty Gen- 
eral Carleton would not suffer a single one of them to 
go on a raiding expedition across the frontier. ^ 

Carleton increased his power on land by drawing 
freely on the complements of the ships which lay in the 
St. Lawrence. A strong detachment of the Royal Ma- 
rines served in his army, under the command of their 
own officers, as was the custom throughout that war. 
A major of the corps had ordered the first shot to be 
fired at Lexington ; and many thousand cartridges were 
bitten by tfee men before the struggle ended. For 
George the Third, at such a crisis, was not inclined to 
leave as good an infantry as any in Europe pipe-claying 
belts, and eating rations, in their barracks at home. 
Moreover his admirals in America knew better than to 
strip the fleet of its scientific naval officers and trained 
mariners, and send them up country for the purpose of 
fighting as musketeers. And so it came to pass that the 

1 "The women are extremely lively, goodnatured, and obliging, and 
very neat in their persons, but have not the least pretentions to beauty. 
The men are far from agreeable ; for, since they have enjoyed the bless- 
ings of an English Government, they are become insolent and over-bear- 
ing. When they fancy themselves offended their cry is, * Je vais le dire 
au General Carleton.' " Those are the observations of a newly arrived 
British officer, whose remark on the looks of Canadian women shows that 
he was in a hurry to generalise from insufficient data. 

^ Bancroft's History of the United StateSy Epoch III., chapter 52. 


Royal Marines were allowed a chance of pro\nng what 
they could do, and had the full credit for it after it was 
done, just as much as if one of their generals had been 
sitting at the Board of Admiralty to see that they got 
fair play in whatever part of the world guns were firing. 
The British sailors, however, were not excluded from 
the joys and dangers of the campaign. Carleton gave 
them plenty of the work for which they were profes- 
sionally adapted. The real cause of the delay in his 
forward movement was that the forest presented an im- 
penetrable barrier to invaders who had not the com- 
mand of Lake Champlain ; — an inland sea, extending 
seventy miles from north to south. It was impos- 
sible to take craft of any considerable burden up the 
turbid and broken stream of the river Sorcl ; and a 
small gang of ship-wrights was accordingly collected at 
St. John's, which was situated well above the Rapids. 
Sheds and slip-ways were extemporised ; carpenters from 
the men-of-war were told off to assist ; and the little 
dockyard was soon as i)usy as Sheerness. An eigh teen- 
gun vessel had been brought in separate pieces from 
Kngland, and was put together then and there. Five 
brigs and schooners mounting between them forty-four 
cannon, a score of gun-boats, and two hundred and fifty 
armed or unarmed barges for the transport of troops, 
were constructed on the spot, or hauled up the cataracts 
by dint of almost incredible exertions. Those prodigies 
of labour were executed by men and officers of the 
Royal Navy, in a spirit of contagious jollity which ex- 
tended its influence beyond their own service, and, (as 
it has often done before and since,) contributed largely 
to assure the success of the conjoint expedition. Nor 
was that all. " Two hundred prime seamen from the 
transports," (so an English post-captain testifies,) ** im- 
pelled by a due sense of their country's wrong, did 
most generously engage themselves to serve in our 
armed vessels during the expedition. Nor has any man 
of this profession uttered a single word of discontent 
amid all the hardships they have undergone ; so truly 


patriotic are the motives by which they are actu- 
ated." 1 

The patriotism which takes the form of content and 
self-suppression cannot be said to have been universal 
in a camp that contained the prime grumbler of the 
British army ; for Burgoyne was second in command. 
When the time came, as before long it did, for every- 
one to have a fling at him, his enemies disseminated 
a report that he had treated Carleton with the same dis- 
loyalty as he had exhibited towards Gage. The charge 
was probable, but has not been proved. It came mainly 
from Lord George Germaine, who himself hated Carle- 
ton, and habitually did his utmost to injure him in the 
estimation of their Sovereign. But no whisper from 
a minister, — or no extract, culled and copied from the 
letter of a disappointed general beyond the seas, if such 
indeed reached the royal eye, — could affect the King's 
approval of his wise and faithful servant. Grateful to 
Carleton for his recent services, George the Third made 
adequate and intelligent allowance for his present diffi- 
culties. He assured Lord North of his satisfaction 
with the reasons given for postponing the commence- 
ment of an aggressive campaign. Disregarding Lord 
George Germaine's attempts at dissuasion, he made the 
Governor of Canada a Commander of the Bath, (a much 
rarer honour in those days than in ours,) and pleased 
himself by sending out the red ribbon in charge of the 
new Knight's own wife, together with a special warrant 
authorising him to bear the title, and wear the ensigns, 
even though the King's sword had not as yet touched 
his shoulder. By the end of September 1776, all was 
ready to Sir Guy Carleton's mind ; and he commenced 
his stately and leisurely progress towards the south at 
the head of twelve thousand effective soldiers, perfectly 
disciplined, carefully exercised to fight in the woods 
and row their flotilla along the lakes, and abundantly 
provided with all the appliances of war. 

1 Letter from Captain Douglas of the his: October 1776, American 


Meanwhile our principal army, and the larger portion 
of our transatlantic fleet, had been despatched to the 
middle colonies in order to strike at the heart of the 
rebellion. General William Howe continued to com- 
mand the land force ; while the naval operations were 
entrusted to his elder brother, Richard, Lord Howe, 
whose past had been as honourable as his future was 
glorious. Over and over a2;ain, for the best part of two 
generations, Richard Howe was found exactly where 
his country most wanted him. In June 1754, — a young 
post-captain, who already knew how a gun-shot felt, — 
he captured a French battleship in the Gulf of St. Law- 
rence, after saluting her with the first broadside that 
was fired in the Seven Years' War. At Quiberon Hay, 
in a battle which ranks with the victory of the Nile, he 
was named by Hawke to lead the l^ritish squadron into 
action ; and, thou<;h his ship was out-sailed by some of 
her consorts, when once she got among the enemy she 
was out-fought by none. In October I7<S2 he relieved 
Gibraltar, almost under the guns of a great fleet exceed- 
ing his own by thirteen sail of the line, and gained a 
triumph which, all the more because it was bloodless, 
maintained the reputation of British seamanship at the 
level to which, after a period of depression, it had been 
raised by Rodney in the preceding April. And as his 
crowning service, on the first of June 1794, Howe broke 
the sea power of the French Re|)ublic. Those were 
some of the achievements which secured to him a fame 
and a popularity lasting over an e.xtraordinarily pro- 
tracted period of our history. In 1740 he had been 
taken from Eton to accompany Lord Anson en his cele- 
brated voyage ; and, well into the nineteenth century, 
young Englishmen of unusual manliness and dash were 
still known in the Navy, and in India, by the appella- 
tion of "Howe's Boys." ^ 

Such was the man who, on the twelfth of May 1776, 
sailed from St. Helen's to conduct the naval campaign 

1 Kaye's Life and Correspondence of Charles Lord Metcalfe ; Vol. I., 
chapter 5; letter of January 18, 1805. 


against the insurgent colonists. He was now a Vis- 
count, having succeeded to the title when his elder 
brother, as fine an officer as himself, was killed at 
Ticonderoga in 1758. Lord Howe thought ill of the 
Ministry, and especially of Lord George Germaine, with 
whom he had been on bad terms ever since they took 
part together in a calamitous expedition against the 
coast of France. He regarded the conflict between 
Great Britain and her colonies as a civil war, in which 
Britain was in the wrong. In conjunction with Frank- 
lin he had endeavoured to arrange conditions on which 
harmony might be restored ; and perhaps he would 
have attained his object if Lord Dartmouth, who fa- 
voured that meritorious attempt, had been as bold and 
outspoken as Lord Sandwich, who was bent on wreck- 
ing it. Howe took up his command with a sore heart 
and an uneasy conscience. He was profoundly affected 
by the circumstance that a junior officer, whose courage 
he had proved, and whose judgement and character he 
highly valued, respectfully pleaded political convictions 
as a reason for declining an invitation from his old chief 
to serve on board the flag-ship. Howe allowed it to be 
known that he would not have gone out as an Admiral 
unless he had otherwise been invested with the func- 
tions of a negotiator. He, and General Howe, were 
nominated as special Commissioners " to treat with the 
revolted Americans, and to take measures for the res- 
toration of peace with the Colonies." But the powers 
conferred upon the brothers were limited to the point 
of nullity, and almost of absurdity. Lord Howe, who 
had deceived himself into a hopeful frame of mind, was 
not many weeks in American waters before he had been 
driven to recognise that the pacific side of his mission 
was little better than a farce. 

The younger of the two brothers came to the scene 
of action furnished with much more potent arguments 
for bringing the colonists to terms than any which the 
Letters Patent appointing him a Peace Commissioner 
permitted him to use. Simultaneously with General 


Howe's embarkation at Halifax, large armaments con- 
verged upon New York from various quarters of the 
compass. He brought in his train the former garrison 
of Boston, which in itself was an army. These troops 
were not, like Carleton's, flushed with victory ; but they 
were angrily and proudly conscious that, though forced 
to abandon the post which had been conunitted to them, 
they had never been defeated in battle. In the same 
temper, very dangerous to an opponent, the seven regi- 
ments, which had been foiled at Charleston, came from 
the Carolinas under the leadership of Clinton and Lord 
Cornwallis. Three thousand Highlanders had been 
shipped at Glasgow ; a fourth part of whom were 
captured at sea by the American privateers.^ Some 
battalions came direct from I^^nglish ports, and some 
from Ireland. They were closely followed by two 
divisions of Hessians, nine thousand strong, which, 
though not of uniform quality throughout, comprised 
the flower of the foreign contingent. During the 
voyage the Germans complained of parsimonious diet 
and bad accommodation, and especially of the light and 
scanty blankets which were in painful contrast to the 
feather-beds they had left behind them in the Father- 
land. But they were in excellent healtii. The food 
supplied by contractors was no worse, and more plen- 
tiful, than what they had been accustomed to in the 
Cassel barracks. Their pay continued to mount up 
whether they were well or sea-sick ; and the discomforts 
of ocean travel only increased the satisfaction which 
they felt in the near prospect of placing their feet upon 
solid soil. 

Taken as a whole, it was a most efficient army. 
The weak point in the British military system was the 
impossibility of ensuring that the best man, or even 
a fairly good man, should command a battalion. How 

^ The crews of our transports, when the enemy appeared, had refused 
to defend, or even to handle, their ships ; and, after the sailors had gone 
below, the Scottish soldiers had made a gallant but, from the nature of 
the case, a hopeless resistance. 


great and wide-spread was the evil may be gathered 
from the condition of two regiments belonging to the 
comparatively small portion of Howe's army which was 
drawn from Ireland. *' I am extremely concerned," (so 
the Commander-in-Chief at Dublin wrote to the Lord 
Lieutenant,) " that no purchaser can be found for 

Lieutenant Colonel B 's commission ; for, besides 

his infirmities, I have his own word, added to the 
testimony of other people, that he is mad. Since I 
began this, the Colonel of the seventeenth regiment has 
been with me, humbly requesting your Excellency's per- 
mission to dispose of his Lieutenant Colonelcy. I never 
saw the gentleman before ; but he is in a most wretched 
state of health, overcome with the gout, and barely 
able to walk. He protests that he has been about to 
sell these three years, and that he shall only be put on 
board ship to die." ^ Such instances constantly occurred 
at every succeeding outbreak of hostilities ; and the 
authorities at the Horseguards, who were not devoid of 
human feeling, found it no easy matter to deal with them. 
Duty came in a cruel shape upon a Commander-in-Chief 
when he was forced to compel an old brother officer with 
a large family, who had invested in his Commission all 
his property and a good deal of borrowed money 
besides, to make a forced sale in a market which had 
gone entirely to pieces, as the Commission market 
always did in time of war. 

Even when a colonelcy was vacant, it did not neces- 
sarily fall to an officer whom the regiment knew, and 
who had served with it in the field. The Guards bore 
numerically a much larger proportion to the rest of 
the army than at present ; their lieutenants ranked as 
captains, and their captains as lieutenant-coloneJs ; and 
the social position and private means of those gentlemen 
enabled them at every successive opportunity to make 
the most of their advantages. During the early months 
of 1776 this grievance of the unprivileged sought 
expression in the newspapers. "The rise ip the 

1 General Irwin to Earl Harcourt, September i, 1775. 


Guards," (one letter runs,) "is so rapid, from the sup- 
pression of the ranks of Lieutenant and Major, that 
officers of the Line have always the mortification to 
find, after long and painful service, a body of men who 
supersede them in their profession, and claim most of 
the elevated posts in the army. When the road seems 
smooth to a regiment, an inundation of captains in the 
Guards, by dint of Court rank and etiquette of pre- 
cedency, defeat all the j)rospects of the actual soldier, 
and trample on a life of dangers and fatigues." Junius, 
who knew our War Office from the inside, computed 
that the number of commissioned officers in the Guards 
were to those of marching regiments as one to eleven ; 
but that the number of regiments given to the Guards, 
compared with those given to the Line, were as one to 

England, perhaps, never entered upon a great 
military enterprise with so large a supply of men 
qualified by standing and experience to load her bat- 
talions. " The two last wars," wrote General Burgoyne, 
" have filled the army with excellent officers from the 
year 1743. The military science, which in the course 
of the long peace had degenerated into the tricks of 
parade and the froth of discipline, has been attentively 
considered both in theory and practice; and to the 
honour of the cloth be it said that there are few sets of 
officers now to be met with where an ignorant man 
could converse upon his profession without exposing 
himself." That passage referred to a period so far back 
as 1761 ; and the intervening fifteen years had made 
havoc with the veterans of Dettingen and Fontenoy. 
But, when fighting began in 1775, there were many 
officers above the rank of lieutenant, (and, where a man 
was poor, too often still in that rank,) who had served 
under Ferdinand of Brunswick and Lord Granby in the 
Seven Years' War ; and in that war British valour was 
guided by the minute and well-considered precepts of 

^ London Evening Post for P'ebruary 1776. Author's note to the 
Letter of Junius of December 19, 1769. 



Prussian discipline. The strategy of our generals in the 
American campaigns is instructive to military students 
by warning rather than example ; but, when it came to 
tactics, it is abundantly evident that the officers of our 
regiments, and our brigades, were at home in all the 
details of warfare. Arrangements for the march and the 
bivouac, for out-posts and scouting, and for the supply 
of food, forage, and ammunition, worked smoothly and, 
to all appearance, automatically. Our light dragoons 
gave close attention to their less showy, but not least 
important, duties. They were always to the front, and on 
the flanks, in an advance ; and, whenever general opera- 
tions were suspended, they shot forth on excursions, 
searching the country far and near, and harrying and 
bewildering the Americans who, north of the Potomac 
at least, were no great horsemen. The essential routine 
of battle was admirably understood in our army. 
Cavalry charged at the right moment, and halted 
before rashness had converted a success into a disaster. 
Infantry were taken into action over ground reconnoitred 
with as much care as time permitted, and in a formation 
promptly and almost instinctively selected out of several 
which had been made famiHar beforehand by frequent 
practice ; and, when the task was beyond their strength, 
the coolness and method of the retreat was seldom, if 
ever, allowed to degenerate into a rout. 

Our line regiments were officered from the less 
wealthy, and more hardy, section of a rural aristocracy. 
The sudden and recent influx of opulence, which had 
done so much to foster corruption in politics, and luxury 
in fashionable society, had not as yet penetrated to our 
smaller land-owners. A cadet of good family, whether 
the younger son of a squire, or the eldest son of a 
parson, (who in the nature of things was seldom an 
eldest son himself,) very generally lacked the means of 
buying his way into the upper grades of the army. 
Hopeless of arriving even at the threshold of high 
military advancement, men of this class loved their 
profession all the more because they loved it for itself. 


Renouncing, in many cases, all hope of marriage, they 
looked upon the regiment as their home, and grew old 
in uniform. Coming of a strong-natured and whimsical 
race, in a century when men were never ashamed of 
being themselves, they not unfrequently, as years 
increased upon them, acquired a marked, and some- 
what quaint, individuality. Great readers, many of 
them, during the break between one war and the next, 
their favourite authors were those in vogue at a time 
when a scholar was a man who understood Greek and 
Latin. If one of them took up his pen in a military 
controversy, — and very sensible letters they often 
wrote, — he would sign himself in the newspapers as 
" Valerius," or " Postumius " ; or as " Cincinnatus," 
in case he had retired on half-pay. When discussing 
professional topics, they drew most of their illustrations 
from the same classical sources as those to which Flu- 
ellen resorted ; but in them, as in that Welshman, there 
was much care and valour. The object of their life 
was the efficiency and the reputation of their regiment. 
They were sincerely rcsj)ectcd by the subalterns, from 
whom they did not exact undue and unwilling defer- 
ence. *' Any restraint upon conversation, off parade, 
unless when an offence against religion, morals, or 
good breeding is in question, is grating ; and it ought 
to be the characteristic of every gentleman neither to 
impose, nor to submit to, any distinction but such as 
propriety of conduct, or superiority of talent, naturally 
create." Those were the formal and punctilious 
phrases in which Burgoyne, himself the model of a 
field-officer, described the tone of a good EngHsh mess 
room containing a major and half a dozen captains who 
had served in Germany. 

Nothing was allowed to interfere with good fellow- 
ship, and with a theory of the social equality that ought 
to exist between one gentleman and another ; and yet 
the authority of a military superior, when he judged fit 
to exert it, was not to be trifled with. A lecture from 
a colonel or general was a rare occurrence, and was 



couched in language suited to a state of society when 
offence was easily taken and quickly resented ; but 
those who listened to it knew that it meant business. ^ 
Kindly and tolerant towards their younger comrades, 
these old officers did not confine their friendliness to 
the commissioned ranks. They looked after the wants 
of the men, and were mindful of their feelings. They 
treated the sergeants and corporals, who frequently had 
been as long in the regiment as themselves, as their 
elder brothers at home would behave to old and trusted 
family servants. That was their course of life until, — 
with such limbs as the French cannon, and the uncom- 
promising surgery of an heroic epoch, had left to them, 
— they settled down, on an income counted by tens of 
pounds, under a very humble roof beneath the elms of 
their native village. 

Howe's army contained a noble specimen of this 
class of officer. To Colonel Enoch Markham, as the 
brother of an archbishop, promotion came in less stinted 
measure than to some ; but he earned all the gifts which 
fortune bestowed upon him. He was forty-nine years 
old at the opening of the campaign, throughout which 

1 General Phillips of the Artillery had the character of understanding 
to perfection how a thorny matter should be handled. Some subalterns 
of his corps, stationed at Montreal, had been dining with a Canadian 
gentleman, whose daughters were pretty, and whose wine was only too 
good. Before the entertainment had been concluded, the guests became 
so impertinent that the host next morning made a complaint to the 
General, and threatened, unless redress was granted, to set off to Quebec, 
and lay the case before Governor Carleton. Phillips, at his next levee, 
desired the officers of the artillery to remain after the rest of the company 
had departed. " I do not," he said to them, " know who has been guilty 
of such conduct. I am sure it could not have been any of the young 
gentlemen; for certainly their persons and address, when they solicit the 
fair, would have ensured them success. I neither know who the officers 
were, nor do I wish to be informed; but let me advise them, when they 
next approach the ladies, to pursue different means, as they may rest 
assured that those which they have adopted will never succeed. I only 
desire that I may never hear more of such complaints; nor need I suggest 
to those gentlemen, who are conscious of being concerned, that it is 
compatible with their characters to make an apology to the father of the 
young ladies." The General's advice was taken ; and the affair ended 
without either a duel or a court-martial, and apparently to the satisfaction 
of everybody concerned. 



he was sedulously attentive to the comfort of the troops, 
and neglectful of his own. " There being," he wrote in 
January 1777, "a plentiful scarcity of everything here, 
it is with difficulty that I continue to live. If it was not 
for my faithful old soldier-servant, I should starve. He 
answers the character of Sterne's Corporal Trim. He is 
a charming figure for a porter at a great man's gate, or 
for a Yeoman of the Guard." Colonel Enoch continued 
to serve in America until the end of the war, with the 
highest character for personal courage and patriotic dis- 
interestedness. At different times he was entrusted 
with a brigade, and occasionally had a separate command. 
He was supposed to have given offence to those above 
him by refusing to accept Secret Service money, " with 
an understanding, then too prevalent, that it was fair per- 
cjuisite, and never to be accounted for to the public." 
We are told that " some singularities appeared in his 
character; but all tending to his honour. When at the 
head of his regiment on a march, he always made some 
tired soldier ride his horse, and marched through 
every kind of bad ground, and partook of every awk- 
wardness of situation that his men were exposed to. 
His cool courage, and contempt of personal danger, 
were almost proverbial in the army. On one occasion, 
when under a heavy fire, he heard talking in the ranks. 
He turned his back upon the fire, commanded silence, 
and harangued the men upon the disciphne of the Lace- 
dasmonians." Upon another occasion his regiment, 
while advancing amid a shower of bullets, was brought 
up short by a wooden fence. Colonel Markham coolly 
and deliberately went up to the palings, pulled at them, 
and found that they might be forced. After the action, 
some of his officers represented to him the imminent 
danger to which he had exposed himself unnecessarily, 
as he might have sent a private upon the same service. 
He answered with warmth : " Good God ! do you sup- 
pose I would send any man on a service of danger 
where I would not go myself } " Having at last been 
badly wounded, (and no wonder,) he was sent, by way 


of a health-resort, to the island of St. Lucia between 
Martinique and Barbadoes, where the heat of the cli- 
mate brought on a dangerous illness which necessitated 
his retirement from the army. *' He passed the rest of 
his life at a lodging in Lambeth, seeing very much of 
the Archbishop ; " — a good sample of the sterling ma- 
terial which made the strength of our country in the 
eighteenth century.^ 

The war was not popular among the rank and file 
of our army. There was the certainty of one voyage 
across the Atlantic, and the remote prospect of another 
for those of them who were strong enough, or lucky 
enough, to see the business through. It may confi- 
dently be asserted that no one has profited more by the 
great discoveries of modern science than the British 
soldier. An ambitious military man, who followed his 
opportunities of distinction in sailing-ships all the 
world over, spent more of his time on deep water, and 
was much more likely to terminate his career beneath 
it, than an oflficer of the Royal Navy in an age of 
steam. The army officer, indeed, had the worst of both 
professions ; for the merchantmen, which were pro- 
vided to carry him from one scene of duty to another, 
were the very refuse of our trading fleet. The toils 
and perils of a campaign were to him less formidable 
than the hardships, the delays, and the disappointments 
of the voyage, — the preliminary weeks spent in the 
Channel, waiting for a wind inside the Solent, and sight- 
ing the Lizard on the day that he had hoped to find 
himself off New York ; the horrors of a gale between 
the decks of a crowded unseaworthy bark, with no 
employment or responsibility which would take his 
mind off the imminent danger and the ineffable dis- 
comfort; and, in an interval of calm, the tedious round 
of an everyday existence which combined all that was 
most odious on both elements. Idleness and disgust 

^ The particulars relating to Colonel Markham are drawn from an un- 
published history of his family ; which was kindly, and indeed generously, 
lent to me by Sir Clements R. Markham, K.C.B., F.R.S. 



gave rise to scandals and court-martials, and to quarrels 
about precedence, where precedence meant the title to 
a cabin not quite so wretched as others, and the power 
of shifting quarters on board a less ill-found vessel. 
An officer actually fought a duel on his way out to 
America, was severely wounded, and had time to be 
cured before he arrived in port. A good commander 
would keep his people occupied, by setting the soldiers 
to shoot at a mark for prizes, and encouraging the 
subalterns to make up the leeway of a scamped and, 
(in the best of cases,) an unfinished education. But 
the most resourceful and unselfish of colonels or majors 
could do little for the health and happiness of the 
privates. Fetid water, kept in wine casks that never 
had been properly cleansed ; poisonous beer ; biscuits 
alive with maggots ; beef that had been left over from 
the voyage before last; and, what was worse than all, 
(kind-hearted as they were,) the sight of their suffering 
and dying horses, and of their comrades swallowing the 
rust of the anchor-stock in brandy as a specific against 
the miseries of dysentery ; — those were the circum- 
stances which gained for a transport the name of a 
floating Hell. 

Nor, in the anticipation of soldiers who left England 
in the spring of 1776, was it a Paradise towards which 
they were journeying. Letters from the garrison of 
Boston had been read aloud in the barrack-rooms, 
which depicted in very dark colours the hardships 
awaiting them on the further shore. They were going 
to a land of plenty ; but the plenty was not for them. 
The ration of a British private, they were told, was less 
than half a pound of salt bony pork, and no vegetables 
whatever. He had to pay twenty pence for cheese, and 
fourteen pence for old rancid Irish butter, at a time 
when the rebels, outside the town, were buying large 
pigeons at fourpence a dozen, and the best butcher's meat 
at three half-pence a pound ; while turkeys and roasting 
pigs were thrown into the scale together, and sold at 
the same price. This story was sent to England by a 


grenadier of Marines, who had been recalled to the 
regiment from his employment as porter in a ware- 
house. He had cried, (he said,) ready to break his 
heart for going on that damned service, instead of 
against the French and Spaniards.^ But there was, 
in most cases, no hanging back from the call of duty. 
The Guards set a good example. A battalion of a 
thousand had been formed for service in America, by 
picking fifteen men from each of their sixty-four com- 
panies. The officers left at home their spontoons, and 
the sergeants their halberts. All ranks carried firelocks, 
and knew how to use them. For some time past they 
had been "practising with a rifle-gun in Hyde Park, 
against a small target three hundred yards off," — at an 
hour in the morning, it is to be supposed, when the 
citizens and their families had not yet come out to take 
the air. Towards the end of March they were reviewed 
by the King at Wimbledon, and moved off the Common 
in the direction of Portsmouth, taking with them a score 
of field-pieces, and the whole of their baggage succinctly 
packed into thirty waggons. 

Our forefathers were accustomed to see expeditions 
go forth without those manifestations of enthusiasm 
which a French military writer has described, and dep- 
recated, as " les ardeurs du depart." ^ The troops were 
allowed to leave the country very quietly ; but they 
fought none the worse on that account. They were 
hard fellows, bred for the most part in rural districts ; 
at home among horses, and better shots than the gentry 
of their neighbourhood either desired or approved. 
Many of them were in the habit of stalking game and 
wild-fowl over the unenclosed and undrained tracts 
which still covered so wide a surface of our island. Not 
a few had been poachers, — a circumstance to which, 
(as afterwards in the Peninsula and at Waterloo,) cap- 
tains acquainted with the personal history of their com- 
panies attributed, in some considerable degree, the 

^ Letter in the Evening Posty January 1776. 

* General Trochu's VArmee Fran^aise en iSbjy chapter xix. 


deadly effect of the British fire.^ Subsequently to their 
arrival in America the troops were carefully instructed 
to shoot, not only at a target, but in skirmishing order 
among the ravines and thickets. The next five years 
tested and ascertained the warHke capabilities of our 
race. For the colonists, after one twelvemonth of dis- 
order and of very frequent defeat, were drilled and 
organised up to such a point that they ever afterwards 
met the regulars on an equality in the open field ; while 
the British, from the very first, plunged vigorously into 
a course of forest warfare against a community of hunt- 
ers and backwoodsmen. Our people, wherever and 
whenever they met the enemy, often secured, and always 
were bent on obtaining, victory ; and they never ac- 
quiesced in a repulse, or even in a drawn battle, until 
their list of killed and wounded bore impressive tes- 
timony to the efforts which they had made to avert dis- 

Howe's army, if the different sections could have been 
united at the beginning of the campaign, would have 
amounted to about thirty-five thousand men. " This 
force," (so wrote a contemporary historian of high 
merit,) " was truly formidable, and such as no part of the 
New World had ever seen before. Nor was it, perhaps, 
exceeded by any army in Europe of an equal number, 
whether considered with respect to the excellency of the 
troops, the abundant military stores and warlike mate- 
rials, or the goodness and number of artillery of all sorts 
with which it was provided. It was, besides, supported 
by a very numerous fleet, particularly well adapted to 
the nature of the service."^ Both fleet and army were 
due to the recent exertions of the King, rather than to 

1 A similar cause largely contributed to the early victories gained by 
the French in the wars of their Revolution. In the first armies of the 
Republic the skirmish-lines swarmed with gamekeepers whom the aboli- 
tion of feudalism had deprived of their employment, and with poachers 
who, (ever since the fall of the Bastille emboldened them to work by day- 
light,) had killed down all the game, and whose occupation was gone. 

^ The Anmial Register for 1776; chapter v. of the "History of 


the pair of improvident ministers in charge of the War 
Office and the Admiralty. If things went well, the 
credit would accrue, not to Sandwich and Barrington, 
but to their royal master, and to the Secretary of State 
for the Colonies. Lord George Germaine, according to 
Selwyn, seemed in very great spirits, and quite persuaded 
that the first campaign would end the war, and estab- 
lish, or, (if people liked that expression better,) re-estab- 
lish his own reputation. For the present he had 
something to endure ; because, when he took part in a 
parliamentary debate, ** the Ghost of Minden was for 
ever brought in neck and shoulders to frighten him." ^ 
But Germaine, in his duel with Governor Johnstone, 
had stood opposite the most redoubted pistol in the 
House of Commons ; and he did not feel himself bound 
to fight twice, and still less a dozen times over, in ex- 
actly the same quarrel ; just as Daniel O'Connell re- 
served to himself the liberty of accepting or declining 
a challenge, when once, to his lifelong regret, he had 
killed his man.^ Jack Wilkes and Alderman Sawbridge 
might talk about Minden till they were hoarse, for all 
that Germaine cared. He looked for his reward to 
higher quarters. George the Third did not bear his 
minister any grudge on account of an incident which 
was ancient history ; and about which, in the royal opin- 
ion, more than enough had been said already. The 
King took no interest in the reminiscences of the Seven 
Years' War. The glory derived from that celebrated 
struggle belonged to Frederic the Great, whom he 
neither understood nor liked, and to Lord Chatham, 
whom he cordially detested. But this war was all his 

1 George Selvvyn to Lord Carlisle : December 8, and 12, 1775. 

2 London opinion upon Lord George's conduct in his quarrel with Gov- 
ernor Johnstone is expressed in a letter from William Whitehead to Lord 
Nuneham of the twenty-second of December 1770. The Poet Laureate 
was somewhat more at home in prose than in verse. " The Minden affair, 
at so many years distance, has been got the better of by the drawing of a 
trigger. The Grecians and Romans, whom your Lordship has been read- 
ing of so much of late, did not deal in duels. They murdered and assas- 
sinated heroically ; but they thought exposing themselves to any danger 
in defence of their country a sober, serious, honourable thing." 


own. He was in sympathy with the policy which led 
to it. He, and none else, had provided the means for 
carrying it forward ; and he now, with quiet and dig- 
nified confidence, waited for tidings of victories which 
would place America at his feet. 



The statesmen of the Revolution, assembled in Con- 
gress at Philadelphia, looked forward to coining events 
less complacently than did the resolute and self-reliant 
prince who, even according to their own admission, was 
still their sovereign. Within a few months, at the 
latest, they would have upon them a hostile army, 
strong in numbers and discipline, and backed by the 
entire resources of a stable and well-ordered empire. 
It was true that in Great Britain opinion was very far 
from unanimous ; but opposition to the government 
policy went no further than speeches in the two Cham- 
bers, and epistles signed by one or another ancient 
Roman in the , newspapers. Valens, and Curio, and 
Decius and Marcus Brutus, might threaten North with 
the fate of Strafford, and might solemnly remind a 
shuddering public that there was such a date in the cal- 
endar as the Thirtieth of January. But George the 
Third knew perfectly well that his parliamentary ma- 
jority was good for several sessions ; and that, if ever 
the Rockinghams came into office, the very last thing 
about which they would trouble themselves would be 
the impeachment of their predecessors, or the punish- 
ment of their monarch. He and his ministers might 
continue to levy men and money with assured impunity 
so long as they kept within the letter of the constitu- 
tion, however little they might respect its spirit. Even 
in a shire where three freeholders out of five were 
against the war, the land-tax was paid to the last far- 
thing ; the militia-ballot was peaceably conducted in the 



Moot Hall of the county-town ; and the press-gang 
gathered in the maritime population of the sea-ports at 
the cost of a few more broken heads than usual. The 
best of England's own citizens arraigned in words the 
justice of her cause; but, when it came to deeds, she 
presented to the contemplation of her rebellious chil- 
dren the same unbroken front which had been so often, 
and so impressively, displayed before a foreign enemy. ^ 
The case was different across the ocean. PoHtical 
power, so much as there was of it, rested in a collection 
of individuals who called themselves a Congress ; as 
they might have called themselves a House of Com- 
mons, or an Assembly of Notables, or, (if they were so 
minded,) a Witenagemote. With less inherent authority 
than a |)arish vestry, — for legal standing they had 
none, — they issued recommendations to those of their 
countrymen who were ready to accept their advice ; 
they lectured the Ikitish Cabinet with every circum- 
stance of j)ublicity ; and they treated secretly with 
foreign Courts which were rejoiced to see that Cabinet 
in a scrape, and wore willing to do much in order to 
keep it embarrassed and enfeebled. Congress then, 
and for many years after, was described by John 
Adams as ** not a legislative assembly, nor a representa- 
tive assembly, but only a diplomatic assembly." ^ No 
central authority existed in America. The local govern- 
ments of the separate provinces were responsible for 
the ordinary course of civil administration ; and those 
governments, so far from being legally and duly con- 
stituted, were not constituted at all. 

^ " It really appears to me that administration will proceed to such ex- 
tremities as will terminate in the ruin of England and the colonies. It is 
a capital mistake of our American friends to expect insurrections here. 
There is not a shadow of hope for such an event. ... It is said most 
vigorous measures will take place in the Spring, if no offer be made on 
the part of the colonists." Letter by Samuel Curwen, the loyalist, from 
London ; August 8, 1775. 

^ A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States cj 
America; by John Adams, LL.D., and a Member of the Academy of 
Arts and Sciences at Boston. London : printed for C. Dilly in The 


The provincial Charters were now waste parchment. 
The old constitutions had perished ; and in their place 
was anarchy, tempered by the common-sense and public 
spirit of the citizens. It has been said, by those who 
love definitions, that the end and object of human insti- 
tutions is to get twelve honest men into a jury-box, and 
a rogue into jail. But here was a community without 
judge or juryman, constable or turnkey. Society could 
not have held together unless the colonists had been a 
law-abiding people, or rather a people who abode in 
reverential observance of a law which for the time was 
extinct. But the population never existed whose princi- 
ples of morality could long be proof against such a strain. 
An event befell John Adams, trifling in itself, which 
threw him into a reverie tinged by profound melan- 
choly. He met on the road a common horse-jockey, 
against, or in behalf of, whom he had often appeared in 
court ; for the man had been always at law, and for the 
most part in the capacity of a defendant. *' As soon as 
he saw me, he came up to me, and his first salutation 
was ; * Oh ! Mr. Adams, what great things have you 
and your colleagues done for us ! There are no courts 
of justice now in this province; and I hope there never 
will be another.' * Is this,' said I to myself, * the object 
for which I have been contending.-* Are these the senti- 
ments of such people } And how many of them are 
there in the country .-* ' " 

That occurrence took place in the fall of the year 
1775; and things were soon in the way of mending. 
Many far-sighted, and all hot-headed, patriots were 
eager to see the day when their country should de- 
clare herself an independent nation. America could 
not put forth her full strength at home, or acquire allies 
on the Continent of Europe, as long as Americans were 
content to style themselves subjects of the British Crown. 
Most interesting were the communications which, dur- 
ing that period of suspense and incubation, passed be- 
tween members of Congress and their leading supporters 
in the provinces. James Warren, the President of the 


Massachusetts Assembly, thus addressed one of his rep- 
resentatives at Philadelphia. " The sentiments of our 
colony are more united on this great question than they 
ever were on any other. Perhaps ninety-nine out of 
one hundred would engage with their lives and fortunes 
to support Congress in the measure. There is little left 
to do but the form and ceremony ; but even that is im- 
portant." General Charles Lee wrote as follows to 
Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. ** The pulse of Con- 
gress is low. If you do not immediately declare for 
positive Independence we are all ruined. There is a 
poorness of spirit, and a languor, in the late proceedings 
of Congress that I confess frightens me so much that at 
times I regret having embarked myall, — my fortune, 
life, and reputation, — in their bottom. I sometimes 
wish I had settled in some country of slaves, where the 
most lenient master governs." Arthur Lee despatched 
from Paris to the Committee of Secret Correspondence, 
whose emissary he was, a letter bound up within the 
cover of a dictionary. He reported that the desire of 
France to assist America was sincere, but that the Court 
was timid, and the position of the Ministry precarious. 
*' My opinion is," he said, "that Independency is essen- 
tial to your dignity, essential to your present safety, and 
essential to your future prosperity and peace." ^ 

Such were the incentives by which ardent and anx- 
ious partisans endeavoured to quicken the march of the 
Revolution. But Congress, in those early days of the 
struggle, was full of strong men who had no intention 
of being hurried over a task the scope and gravity 
of which they adequately measured. Although not 
given to meaningless delay, they had their weighty 
reasons for advancing with circumspection and on sys- 

^ The dictionary in question was the key to a new cipher, worked by 
putting the number of the page on which the word was to be found, and 
indicating the word itself by a more complicated process. " I cannot," 
said the Commissioner, " use this until I know it is safe. You can write 
to Mrs. Lee, on Tower Hill, in a woman's hand. If you have both books, 
say the children are well; if the first only, the eldest child is well; if this, 
the youngest child is well. They will let this pass." 


tern. The aspiration after national independence, how- 
ever widely prevalent now, was in the main a new 
sentiment. The idea had long been familiar to Samuel 
Adams, and a few like him ; but it had not begun to 
pervade the people at large until a very recent date. 
Before blood had been shed, and towns burned, and half 
a score of petitions thrown into the royal waste-paper 
basket, colonists of every shade in politics had scouted 
as a libel the charge that they aimed at separation from 
the mother country. So late as October 1774 the First 
Congress thus addressed the British people. " You 
have been told that we are seditious, impatient of gov- 
ernment, and desirous of independence. Be assured 
that these are not facts, but calumnies." Among those 
who voted that address was George Washington ; and 
in the same autumn he told a military friend at Boston, 
who had spoken of New Englanders as rebels, that it 
was not the wish or the interest of Massachusetts, or 
of any other colony, to set up for independence either 
separately or collectively. Washington never romanced 
to anyone; and, if Benjamin Franklin occasionally 
practised duplicity, at any rate he always spoke the 
truth to Lord Chatham. Franklin had resided in Eng- 
land since 1765, and his experience of the bent of colonial 
opinion was wanting in freshness ; but, such as it was, 
that experience covered half a century. He informed 
Lord Chatham that in the course of his Hfe he had 
travelled from end to end of the American continent, 
had conversed with all descriptions of people, and had 
never heard a hint from any individual, whether drunk 
or sober, that Independence was desirable or even 

Testimony to the same effect has been given by Jay, 
and Madison, and by Jefferson and John Adams them- 
selves, in vigorous and characteristic phrases which 
have been collected and treasured by a people who 
never tire of reading what their great men said about 
the chief event in American story. But these were 
colonists, educated amid an atmosphere of universal 


loyalty to the Crown, who might be slow in noticing 
the symptoms of a change in that pubHc opinion by 
which their boyhood and youth had been surrounded. 
More conclusive, therefore, is a record of the impression 
produced upon an EngUshman belonging to the lower 
middle class, who had been born in the heart of our 
Eastern counties, and who had turned the corner of life 
before he emigrated to the colonies. Thomas Paine 
brought to the study of the American Revolution a 
mind neither profound nor cultivated, but agile, vivid, 
and impressible ; quick to see into things, and marvel- 
lous in its power of stating them with lucidity, with live- 
liness, and with incisive force. ^ " I happened," Paine 
wrote, "to come to America a few months before the 
breaking out of hostilities. I found the disposition of 
the people such that they might have been led by a 
thread, and governed by a reed. Their suspicion was 
quick and penetrating ; but their attachment to Britain 
was obstinate, and it was at that time a kind of treason 
to speak against it. Their idea of grievance operated 
without resentment ; and their single object was recon- 

When the second Continental Congress met in May 
1775 a change had passed over the mind of the Ameri- 
can people. Their love of England was wounded 
deeply at Lexington, and the events of the ensuing 
autumn and winter had killed it outright. The party 
of the Revolution outside Congress was already bent on 
Independence ; but the assembly itself was divided on 
the question, though in very unequal proportions. When 
the House first met, champions of the British connec- 
tion were not many in number ; but they were able, 
wealthy, and respected ; and they enjoyed the great ad- 
vantage of being on their own ground. Pennsylvania, 
as the most populous colony, supplied the largest num- 
ber of delegates to Congress. Most of them were luke- 

^ This sentence is a verbal, though abbreviated, reproduction of Mr. 
Tyler's admirable description of Paine in the twenty-first chapter of the 
Literary History of the American Revolution. 


warm patriots ; and some were greater Tories than they 
themselves as yet knew. Enthusiasm was discounte- 
nanced by the company with whom they habitually con- 
sorted. Many leading gentlemen of Philadelphia had 
been attached to the Proprietary Interest, and owed 
their fortunes, and their municipal importance, to the 
favour of the Penns ; and the Penns were for the 
Crown, although it had used them ill in the past, as 
against the Revolution, which was sure to use them 
much worse in the future. The Quakers, generally 
speaking, had gone as far in the direction of resistance 
to authority as their conscience sanctioned, and as their 
tastes inclined them. Fond of comfort and security, and 
knowing the income of every local politician, (which in 
some cases was no great burden on their memory,) to 
within a hundred dollars, they had scanty sympathy 
with the less solvent personages who so often push to 
the front in times of trouble. Their attitude towards 
warlike members of their own body, who were very 
seldom warm citizens in any sense except in that of 
their revolutionary ardour, was illustrated by the anec- 
dote of a rich and cautious Friend who chanced to 
encounter a Free Quaker arrayed for battle. The old 
man inquired as to the nature and object of the im- 
plement with which his neighbour was girt, and learned, 
in reply, that liberty or death was now the watchword 
of everyone who meant to defend himself and his prop- 
erty. " I had not," was the rejoinder, " expected such 
high feelings from thee. As to property, I thought 
thee had none ; and as to thy liberty, I thought thee al- 
ready enjoyed it through the kindness of thy creditors." 
The policy of hesitation gained dignity and popu- 
larity from the adhesion of John Dickinson, the author 
of the " Farmer's Letters." Dickinson had the virtues 
and the social standing indispensable for the leader of 
a middle party ; and his political creed was compounded 
of such peculiar elements, and so sincerely and bravely 
held, as to give him unusual influence at a very speciai 
conjuncture. He was prepared to fight to the deatK 


for the rights of America, and to die twice over rather 
than consent to forswear his allegiance to the King. 
A poorer motive was attributed to him by John Adams, 
who never showed to so little advantage as when analys- 
ing the character of a prominent contemporary. The 
Quakers, (so Adams was told, and so he was willing to 
believe,) had intimidated Dickinson's female relatives, 
who continually distressed him with their remonstrances. 
His mother kept telling him ; " Johnny, you will be 
hanged. Your estate will be forfeited. You will leave 
your excellent wife a widow, and your charming chil- 
dren orphans, beggars, and infamous." " From my 
soul," said Adams, " I pitied Mr. Dickinson. If my 
mother and wife had expressed such sentiments to me, 
I am certain that, if they did not wholly unman me 
and make me an apostate, they would make me the 
most miserable man alive." And then he went on to 
enumerate a list of his connections on both sides, from 
grandparents downwards, — names of the sort which 
have ever since supplied Boston society with a very 
passable substitute for a titled aristocracy, — and to 
congratulate himself on the fact that they had one and 
all uniformly been of his mind at every turn of the 
great controversy ; so that, however loud the storm 
might rage without, he had enjoyed perfect peace at 

Adams should have judged others by himself. If all 
the Quincys and Nortons in Massachusetts had been 
Tories together, it would not have abated a tittle of his 
own patriotism ; and the resolution with which Dickinson 
maintained his antiquated constitutional attitude was 
proof against far severer trials than the tearful expostu- 
lations of his family. Like a Puritan country gentleman 
at the beginning of our Civil War, he held that to bear 
arms against the Crown was consistent with the duty of 
a loyal subject; and a loyal subject he was determined 
to remain. Clear and steadfast in his own views, he for 
a while exercised a remarkable influence over others. 
He kept his followers united and busy, and encouraged 


them to attract recruits from among their colleagues. 
Working with great art and assiduity, they won over to 
their own party the representatives from South Carolina. 
A visible impression was produced even upon the Sacred 
Band of the Massachusetts delegation, two of whom, in 
a weak moment, had consented to bring their wives to 
Philadelphia. These ladies were invited everywhere, 
and visited by everybody; while their husbands, tired by a 
long day's work, and with the cheerless alternative of 
an evening in hired lodgings, gladly went where there 
was a good cook, a choice cellar, and reception rooms 
decorated with an abundance of those simple and beau- 
tiful articles which now, under the title of old colonial 
furniture, are the chief treasures of a genuine American 

Strong courses were for the present unacceptable to 
these butterflies of politics ; if such a term could be 
applied to any New Englander. But even the more 
severe statesmen of the popular party did not wish to 
force the situation. An assertion of national indepen- 
dence, extorted from Congress after protracted and 
angry debates, and supported by anything short of an 
overwhelming majority, would be of less than no value 
for the high purposes which those statesmen had in 
contemplation. Their sound policy was to wait for 
unanimity; and meanwhile, with excellent judgement, 
they conceded to the chieftain of the royalists a provi- 
sional, but very real, leadership in the conduct of their 
assembly. There was no danger lest warlike prepa- 
rations should suffer on that account ; because, in all 
which related to the public defence, Dickinson was far 
more ready to help than to impede. In September 
1775 a secret Board of nine Congressmen was appointed 
to contract for the importation of five hundred tons of 
powder, forty brass field-pieces, ten thousand stand of 
arms, and twenty thousand *' good, plain, double-bridled 
musket-locks ; " in the following November five mem- 
bers were nominated to correspond "with friends in 
Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world ; " 



and Dickinson sate on both those most important com- 
mittees. With less expectation of a fruitful result, but 
with a single-minded desire for it, Congress gave him a 
free hand in his endeavour to conciliate England. He 
was empowered to petition George the Third once 
again ; to word the document in a style which he 
thought would please ; and to entrust it to a messenger 
chosen from that Proprietary Family of Pennsylvania 
which had a nearer interest than the House of Bruns- 
wick itself in staying the progress of the disturbances. 
From this step, which Dickinson was permitted to take, 
and to take exactly in his own way, nothing but good 
could come. ** There was not a moment during the 
Revolution," (so John Adams wrote, years after that 
Revolution was over,) "when I would not have given 
everything I possessed for a restoration to the state 
of things before the contest began, provided we could 
have a sufficient security for its continuance." If 
Penn's mission had succeeded, that ancient peace would 
have been restored ; and during the remainder of his 
life Dickinson would have been the first man in Amer- 
ica, and after death would have been regarded with 
something of the veneration which now is paid to the 
memory of Washington. And, if the result was other- 
wise, (as those who had carefully watched the King 
reluctantly foresaw,) the partisans of peace would them- 
selves acknowledge that their remedy had been fairly 
tried, and had hopelessly failed ; and the doctrine of 
non-resistance would thenceforward never be preached 
except by politicians who were in favour of abject sub- 
mission and unconditional surrender. 

Adams, for a reason of his own, was just now not 
sorry to be working unostentatiously and in the back- 
ground. He had been overtaken by one of those dis- 
agreeable incidents, — more odious to their victim in 
the retrospect than grave calamities, — which an im- 
pulsive and emotional man, who ventures into politics, 
must sooner or later count on facing. A Boston advo- 
cate, who had served his time as clerk in a Tory 


lawyer's office, found or feared that nobody would 
employ him at the bar ; and he accordingly prayed 
John Adams to give him a certificate of patriotism. 
Adams at last was teased into drawing up letters of 
recommendation addressed to his own wife, and to 
President Warren. When once his pen was in motion, 
he allowed it to run. He wrote as he would have 
talked in the presence of the two people whom he was 
addressing, and poured himself out as plain as if, on 
that July afternoon, he had been sitting between them 
over a jug of cider in his verandah at Braintree. He 
passed a jest on General Lee's devotion to a favourite 
dog.^ He inveighed against Dickinson in terms more 
amusing indeed, but not a whit more slighting and 
embittered, than those which many and many a states- 
man, in his private correspondence, has employed when 
writing about an antagonist. And, finally, he described 
the labours of Congress in highly seasoned language 
which, especially in the estimation of small critics, had 
a flavour of the grandiose. *' My anxiety," he told 
Mrs. Adams, ** about you and the children, as well as 
our country, has been extreme. The business I have 
had upon my mind has been as great and important 
as can be entrusted to man, and the intricacy of it 
prodigious. When fifty or sixty men have a Constitu- 
tion to form for a great empire ; a country of fifteen 
hundred miles extent to fortify ; millions to arm and 
train ; a naval power to begin ; an extensive commerce 
to regulate ; numerous tribes of Indians to negotiate 
with ; a standing army of twenty-seven thousand men 
to raise, pay, victual, and officer, — I really shall pity 
those fifty or sixty men." 

It was very much what an over-worked man of 
genius might be expected to write, during a scrap of 
leisure, for the benefit of those who loved to hear him 
discourse, without reserve, in obedience to the mood 

^ " You observe in your letter the oddity of a great man. He is a 
queer creature; but you must love his dogs if you love him, and forgive 
a thousand whims for the sake of the soldier and the scholar." 



which was upon him at the moment. But his confi- 
dences were exposed to the ordeal of an unfair and 
most unpleasant notoriety. The young lawyer, when 
crossing Hudson River, was intercepted by the boats 
of a British man-of-war; and he was fool enough not 
to destroy the letters. Admiral Graves sent them to 
the Governor of Boston, as a proof that the fleet under 
his command had at least contrived to capture some- 
thing ; and Gage, when it came to his turn, so forgot 
himself as to publish them in the newspapers. General 
Lee at once wrote to assure their author that, as far as 
he himself was concerned, no mischief had been done. 
He was pleased, he said, that his dog had got into 
history; and he did not object to be called a queer 
creature, since in the same sentence his name had been 
handed down to posterity as that of a soldier and a 
scholar. Unfortunately there was more good sense, 
and less sensitiveness, in the camp than in the Congress. 
Though names had not been mentioned in the letters, 
everybody detected the personage of great fortune, and 
petty genius, "whose fame had been loudly trumpeted, 
but who had given a silly cast to the whole of the 
doings " at Philadelphia. Dickinson cut Adams in the 
street : and Dickinson's friends called him faithless 
and slanderous because, in the postscript of a private 
letter to his wife, he had complained that some among 
the delegates were fidgety and conceited. But the 
indignation professed to be felt over these trivialities 
was a cloak for resentments more profoundly based. 
Adams had written to President Warren that already, 
had it not been for the timidity of certain folks, Amer- 
ica should and would have been declared an indepen- 
dent nation. That was his true crime. The opponents 
of Independence saw their chance, and made haste to 
ruin him. They accused him openly and clamorously 
of being disloyal to his colleagues ; but they whispered 
among themselves that he was a traitor to his King. 
Mr. Adams, (so his grandson relates,) was shunned by 
many as if it were contamination to speak with him. 


" Even of his friends, several became infected with the 
general panic, and looked coldly upon him. At no 
time, (and he had repeated trials of this kind,) did he 
stand more in need of all his fortitude and self-control 
than upon the occasion of this sudden and unlooked-for 
influx of the general disapprobation." ^ 

Every inteUigent reader in England took the inter- 
cepted letters very seriously. They brought home to 
him, as nothing had done before, the far-reaching char- 
acter of those political problems which had been so 
lightly and wantonly raised, and the stern purpose of 
at least one rebel statesman, who was bound to solve 
those problems on peril of his own life. The revela- 
tions of the inner mind of John Adams extorted respect, 
and even admiration, from enlightened adversaries of 
his cause. Burgoyne, who could relish a literary style 
the very opposite to that which he himself cultivated, 
exclaimed that the American lawyer wrote with the con- 
ciseness of Tacitus, and propounded matter for a vol- 
ume in half a sentence. In something less than the 
half of one of his own sentences, (for, in dealing with 
Burgoyne, condensation must be permitted if he is to 
be quoted at all,) the General called Lord Dartmouth's 
attention to the acute and dangerous genius of Adams. 
"The bare effort of investigating such objects argues 
an aspiring and vigorous mind ; but when it is consid- 
ered that, with a profligate character, — neither sup- 
ported by pecuniary nor political interest, nor ascending 
by the footsteps of any leader or patron, — by the exer- 
cise of his parts he has cajoled the opulent, drawn in 
the wary, deluded the vulgar, till all parties in America, 
and some in Great Britain, are puppets in his string, I 
am persuaded your Lordship will, with me, lose sight 
of Catiline and Cromwell in passing judgement upon his 
character. Be assured, my Lord, this man soars too 
high to be allured by any offer Great Britain can make. 

'^ Life of Adams, by Charles Francis Adams the elder; chapter iv. 
" I was avoided," (John Adams himself said,) " like a man infected with 
the leprosy." 


America, if his counsels continue in force, must be sub- 
dued or relinquished. She will not be reconciled.'* ^ 

Adams soon regained any ground which he might 
have lost in Congress. The unpopularity of an honest 
man, who has done an unlucky thing, is superficial and 
transient ; however deeply in his own mind the sting 
may rankle. For the work of the next twelvemonth 
John Adams was indispensable ; and he could not be 
gossiped and sneered out of the secure position which 
he occupied in the confidence of his fellow-countrymen. 
Ill suited to be chief of a party in ordinary times, "when 
much depends on a spirit of accommodation to the whims 
or the longings of individuals held together by fleeting 
considerations of personal or public interest, he was emi- 
nently qualified to stand forth the exponent of a clear, 
strong, and noble plan of action in a time of danger." ^ 
So his descendant has judged him; and it was an esti- 
mate in no degree affected by family partiality. John 
Adams could be politic and discreet for the attainment 
of a great end ; and, when a national crisis pressed, he 
would forego his own claims, forget his own grievances, 
and do full justice to the merit of others. His strict 
and pure morality, fortified by courage and industry, 
gave him a commanding influence over an assembly so 
limited in number that each member of it, whether 
friend or enemy, knew him exactly for what he was. 
His speeches were the mirror of his character ; and 
each of them displayed that instinctive devotion to fixed 
principles, and that solid comprehensive grasp of the 
facts and particulars of the hour, which were his most 
valuable qualities as an orator. 

1 Coarser natures than Burgoyne thought it a fit opportunity to revive 
those suggestions of hanging American statesmen which had helped to 
provoke the rebellion. In the Dartmouth Manuscripts there is a letter 
from a Virginian Tory in London to a Virginian patriot at Philadelphia. 
" I pity," said the writer, " the poor ignorant People who must be sacri- 
ficed by thousands to gratify the Pride and Ambition of that damned ras- 
cal John Adams. If you become a separate State, I hope he will turn out 
another Cromwell. If Gage does not raise him to a more exalted station^ 
he won't be contented with anything less from your hands than Stadt- 

^ Life of John Adams ; chapter iv. 


Those fireworks of declamation, by which American 
freedom is annually celebrated, have dazzled mankind 
into forgetting that the edifice of the great Republic 
was not built up by rhetoric. The famous Virginian 
speaker, Patrick Henry, has sometimes been repre- 
sented as a type of the statesmen of the Revolution. 
His contemporaries have handed down to us a tradition 
of his idleness and want of method, founded on truth, 
but not exempt from exaggeration.^ Patrick Henry, 
like most public men, had enemies ; and he was singu- 
larly unfortunate in his panegyrists. From them we 
learn that he hated the toil of composition ; that he left 
no manuscripts, and read very few books ; inasmuch as 
he maintained, all through life, that men were the only 
volumes which could be perused to advantage. His 
library, (we are told,) was in his youthful days the bar 
of his father's tavern. "The character of every cus- 
tomer underwent his scrutiny ; not with reference either 
to the integrity or solvency of the individual, in which 
one would suppose that Mr. Henry would feel himself 
most interested ; but in relation to the structure of his 
mind, the general cast of his opinions, and what may 
be called the philosophy of character." ^ From these 
studies he emerged '* the orator of nature ; — one of 
those perfect prodigies of whom very few have been 
produced since the foundation of the earth was laid." 
He spoke as Homer wrote. He was Shakspeare and 
Garrick combined. His biographer in title describes 
him as possessing a genius which designed with all the 
boldness of Michael Angelo, and an imagination which 
coloured with all the wealth of Titian. This author 

^ The Journals of Congress, and Henry's own private fee-book, have 
recently been subjected by Professor Tyler to a careful and intelligent ex- 
amination; and they indicate that, both as lawyer and senator, the great 
orator was more industrious and less unpractical than anecdote has repre- 
sented him. 

2 Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henrys by William Wirt 
of Virginia; Philadelphia, 1818. Whatever of value Henry might have 
learned at the tavern in his character of son of the house, at all events he 
got little harm; for he was a water-drinker. 


could find nothing in the material world wherewith to 
compare his hero except the cataract of Niagara ; and 
the book ends with a declaration, adapted from a better 
writer, that we never shall look upon Patrick Henry's 
like again. 

Jefferson, — a critic of strong perception, and im- 
mense experience, — pronounced Henry the greatest 
popular speaker whom he ever heard. He was, indeed, 
a marvellous orator; and some of his phrases still ring 
through the generations. It is therefore all the more 
worthy of note that he was held of no great account in 
the Continental Congress. His most devoted admirer 
acknowledges that, when the war had fairly begun, and 
the crisis demanded not words but work, it became 
evident that Mr. Henry was no business-man. He 
could not endure the labour of close thinking ; and the 
lax habits of his early life had implanted in him an 
unspeakable aversion to the drudgery of detail. " I 
found Mr. Henry," said Jefferson, "to be a silent and 
almost unmeddling man in Congress. On the original 
opening of that body, while general grievances were 
the topic, he was in his element, and captivated all by 
his bold and splendid eloquence. But, as soon as they 
came to specific matters, he had the good sense to 
perceive that his declamation had no weight in an 
assembly of cool-headed, reflecting, judicious men." And 
so it came to pass that, a year before the Declaration of 
Independence, Patrick Henry ceased to be a Member of 
Congress, and never again took a seat upon the benches. 

There seldom was an assembly which fixed its atten- 
tion more obstinately upon realities, and Hstened less 
greedily to the elegancies, the subtleties, and the 
personalities of debate. Men repaired thither every 
morning as to a scene of exertion where their own lives 
and fortunes, and the future of their country, depended 
on their common labours and their mutual forbearance. 
Orators were at hand, if orators were wanted. Con- 
spicuous among such was Richard Henry Lee, who 
almost justified those hyperboles which, according to 


colonial fashion, were then applied to a fine speaker. 
His admirers called him the Cicero of the House. His 
style, to their perception, bore a striking resemblance 
to that of Herodotus. He required to read nothing 
up, and to think nothing out, but was ready to handle 
any subject as soon as it was announced ; ** and his 
speech was copious, mellifluous, and set off with be- 
witching cadence of voice and captivating grace of 
action." But with all that, and several pages more of 
laudatory epithets, he had not a tithe of the influence 
exercised by another public man who, like himself, came 
from Virginia. Washington, too, had passed through a 
political apprenticeship in the Assembly at Williamsburg. 
His maiden speech was a single lame and broken sen- 
tence, stammered out when he was thanked in his place 
for distinguished military services rendered in the great 
French war. Like all men of parts and courage, he 
soon learned to command his faculties when addressing 
his fellows ; but he never wasted time and breath, or 
appealed to the ear about a matter which could be 
decided by the eye. He had been known to refute 
a persuasive and passionate orator, on a question con- 
cerning the appropriate site for a public building, by 
producing a map from his pocket and indicating the 
exact situation of the localities in dispute. 

The four men who, in the earlier sessions of Con- 
gress, had most share in guiding its deliberations and 
moulding its action, were Washington and Franklin, 
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Three out of the 
four never made a speech as long as the very shortest 
which, on an important evening, a front-bench man in 
the House of Commons would think it compatible with 
his dignity to make. '* During the whole time," said 
John Adams, " that I sate with Mr. Jefferson in Con- 
gress, I never heard him utter three sentences together." 
Washington very seldom exceeded ten minutes, nor 
Franklin either ; — mindful, as the latter was, of what 
he had written in Poor Richard's Almanack about " the 
Orator, with his flood of words, and his drop of reason." 


Adams himself spoke extemporaneously, from stores of 
information which he had made his own for reasons 
other than oratorical, and ceased as soon as he had put 
his audience in possession of the facts, and of the pro- 
posals, with which it was essential that they should be 
acquainted. The power of these men lay in what they 
knew, and did ; and, above all else, in the circumstance 
that their brother Congressmen gratefully recognised 
how very much leisure, comfort, and private advantage 
they had sacrificed under a sense of public duty. Wash- 
ington, until he joined the army at Boston, sate on every 
committee where his military experience was in demand. 
Franklin, as soon as he returned from London to Phila- 
delphia, afforded an example of diligence which his 
younger colleagues were proud to follow. He was a 
Chief Commissioner for Indian Affairs, and a member 
of three bodies which sate every day, — the Committee 
of Safety, the Pennsylvania Assembly, and the Conti- 
nental Congress. When the hours, at which these 
bodies severally met, interfered with each other, he 
preferred to attend Congress ; not because the work 
done there was more showy, but because it was more 
urgent. And, as for Adams, from four in the morning 
until ten at night he did not find a minute which he 
could call his own. New Englander that he was, he 
kept a pretty exact account, both in Colonial and British 
money, of the value of the time which he gave to the 
service of the State. There were lawyers, (he said long 
afterwards,) who made five thousand guineas a year, 
and many who earned ten thousand dollars ; but not 
one of them went through as much business for all his 
emoluments as he himself had undertaken and dis- 
charged during those eighteen months when he was 
Chairman of the Board of War and Ordnance, and a 
frequent and most weighty, although no lengthy, speaker 
in the Continental Congress. 

The Reverend William Gordon was a very familiar 
figure in American political circles during that anxious 


and busy session. He was a Congregational minister 
at Roxbury near Boston, and the self-destined historian 
of the American Revolution. Piercing the mists of the 
future with a confident glance, Gordon foresaw a theme 
which demanded a Thucydides ; and, as early as the 
year 1774, he commenced to gather together his mate- 
rials according to methods recommended by the practice 
of that immortal writer. In order to qualify himself for 
his large task, (we are told,) Gordon began by making 
his purpose widely known.^ He was in and forth of 
Congress daily, jotting down the heads of speeches, and 
button-holing the Committee-men who were the real 
rulers of the country. He travelled up and down in 
the wake of the armies, examining the ground where 
actions had been fought, and plying the generals with 
questions about the strength of their forces and the 
meaning of their strategy. It was the function of his- 
tory, (so Gordon wrote,) to oblige all who had performed 
any distinguished part on the theatre of the world to 
appear before mankind in their proper character, and 
to render an account of their actions at the tribunal of 
posterity, as models of what ought to be followed, or as 
examples to be censured and avoided.^ With such a 
prospect before them, few commanding officers, who 
had any care for their reputation, ventured to refuse 
Gordon admission to the inmost recesses of head-quar- 
ters. His principal informant on military matters was 
General Gates, to whom he wrote as his " dear Horatio," 
in a long series of letters containing a good deal less 
wit and insight than we are accustomed to associate 
with observations addressed to a person of that name. 
The Commander-in-Chief himself was persecuted by 
Gordon with demands for private interviews, for a sight 
of confidential documents, or for information on military 
and political points of interest. The patience with 
which, for many years, Washington endured this inflic- 
tion was exemplary, and almost inexplicable. The truth 

^ Tyler's Literary History ; Vol. II., chapter 39. 
* Preface to Gordon's History in the edition of 1788. 


seems to be that the great Virginian, who knew his own 
multifarious business well, was very cautious about 
forming an unfavourable judgement with regard to the 
qualifications of people who practised arts outside the 
scope of his experience. He had no difficulty when 
the question was one of selecting a brigadier-general, or 
a Secretary of State, or an ambassador, or a land-agent, 
or the foreman of a tobacco factory ; but he was con- 
tent to accept historians at their own valuation, until 
the world had pronounced a definite verdict upon their 

Gordon's head was perpetually filled by conscious- 
ness of his high mission ; and he set an extravagant 
value on the favour which he conferred by his bodily 
presence. In the fall of 1776 he pompously announced 
himself as intending a visit to both the armies. He did 
not doubt, (he said,) that he would meet with a hearty 
welcome from Gates and Washington, and see them in 
the happy character of glorious conquerors, loved and 
admired by all about them for having been instrumental 
in saving the liberties, as well as the necks, of the 
Americans. But there was one statesman in Philadel- 
phia who never was sorry when the minister of Rox- 
bury for a while transferred himself and his note-book 
from the city to the camp. Parson Gordon's indiscreet 
prate, (said John Adams,) was a mischievous element 
in politics. Although zealous in the cause, and well- 
meaning, he was an eternal talker, — vain, inaccurate, 
and injudicious, and, (beyond all,) not sufficiently alive 
to the claims and merits of the province of which Bos- 
ton was the capital.^ On that head Adams was hard 
to please ; for, sooner or later, Gordon was at the 
trouble to read near thirty folio manuscript volumes of 
the records of Massachusetts Bay. 

But, in order to write like a great Athenian master in 
the age of Pericles, something more was required than 
diligence in collecting facts. Gordon, in an unhappy 
hour, invented for himself the very worst historical 

"^ Diary of John Adams; November 16, 1775. 


vehicle that misdirected ingenuity ever constructed or 
conceived. He composed his book in the shape of de- 
tached letters professing to have been posted from 
America, to correspondents in Europe, at dates immedi- 
ately subsequent to the occurrences which they nar- 
rated. By this process, (to employ his own exact 
words,) he intended that a present ideal existence 
of past events should be created in the mind, similar to 
what is felt when a well-executed painting is examined. ^ 
A complete history, industriously composed on these 
strange lines, was ready for publication as soon as the 
war ended. But the author, on reviewing his work, 
had come to the conclusion that America was far from 
a safe place in which to pubHsh. Gordon's fellow-citi- 
zens were not just then in a mood to bear criticism 
meekly, or to read with pleasure an impartial recapitu- 
lation of events many of which they chose should be 
forgotten. They were proud and exultant, and unwill- 
ing to be reminded by a too faithful monitor how often 
in the course of the war they had been foiled and dis- 
pirited; not a few politicians and generals, moreover, 
had risen to fame and power whose past career had 
occasionally been marked by failures and blunders ; and 
twenty continuous years of political commotion had 
habituated the Americans to very rough modes of vin- 
dicating public or private honour against anyone whom 
they regarded as a traducer. Liberty, property, and 
character, (so Gordon had persuaded himself,) were 

1 Gordon, after reporting the famous outrage in Boston Harbor as a 
piece of thrilling news, goes on to anticipate that the destruction of the 
tea will issue in the destruction of the Provincial Charter, which will make 
the inhabitants of the colony furious beyond expression. The letter re- 
lating to what passed at Lexington is dated on the day week after the 
battle. The account ends by expressing an apprehension that Massa- 
chusetts will be crushed unless the other colonies come to her assistance. 
Gordon's correspondent, however, would be interested to hear that, at all 
events, the inhabitants of the threatened province will act their part with 
firmness and intrepidity, knowing that slavery is worse than death. This 
solemn trifling was kept up through four thick volumes, published many 
years after the consequences, so gravely and specifically foretold as being 
still in lie future, had all come to pass. 


safer in Great Britain than in the States ; and the his- 
torian could use the impartial pen with less danger in 
the old Kingdom than in the new Republic.^ He accord- 
ingly resolved that his book should appear in London. 

It was a desperate hope. The Americans might 
be intolerant from the insolence of success; but the 
British were very sore. When Gordon arrived on the 
other side of the water, he was given to understand 
that his story of the war abounded in statements which 
the Law-courts at Westminster would regard as libels 
on some of the most respectable characters in the 
British army and navy ; that the Admiralty and the 
War Office would never even contemplate the notion of 
permitting him to examine their archives for evidence 
to make good his allegations ; and that, if he possessed 
the fortune of the Duke of Bedford, he would not be 
able to pay the damages which would be recovered 
against him. And so, having omitted what would give 
umbrage to Americans, Gordon next proceeded to strike 
out all that might offend Englishmen ; and his original 
manuscript was docked of at least a hundred pages, 
which were somewhat less dull and pointless than the 
rest. Under such conditions Thucydides himself would 
have failed to produce a work deserving to be classed 
as a possession for ever : and, for poor Gordon, the 
publication was not even a source of present profit. 
John Adams, who then was Envoy at the Court of St. 
James's, had some while before informed a friend at 
home that neither history, nor poetry, nor anything but 
painting and music, balls and spectacles, was in vogue 
in London. Serious study had gone out of fashion ; 
and, if ever people went back to books, they would not 
begin with a narrative of the most disastrous under- 
taking in which their country had for centuries been 
engaged. ** It is a story," (said Adams,) "that nobody 
here loves to read."^ 

1 Gordon to Horatio Gates; October i6, 1782. 

2 Gordon's pretensions, the docility with which they were recognised 
by his countrymen while the history was still in preparation, and the utte^: 


The group of statesmen who, in 1775 and 1776, 
inspired the tactics of the advanced party in Congress, 
were disinclined to rush a declaration of Independence 
against the resistance of what was still a compact and 
not insignificant minority ; but they had a stronger 
reason yet for postponing a project on which the mind 
of every man amongst them was by this time unalter- 
ably set. As things then stood, they did not feel them- 
selves justified in committing their own generation, and 
posterity likewise, to a step which would be ruinous 
in case they failed, and irrevocable if they succeeded. 
Congress was a mere collection of individuals, sent to 
Philadelphia by self-appointed constituents for the pur- 
pose of making head against a great and sudden peril, 
but with no right or title to construct a nation. In 
order to approach such a scheme with moral authority, 
and even a show of legality, the central assembly must 
receive a definite and specific commission from the reg- 
ular governments of the several colonies ; and at pres- 
ent no such governments existed. The pedestal had to 
be completed before the statue of liberty was erected ; 
and the hewing out of each block of the granite which 
composed the substructure was not less necessary, and 
even tougher, work than the shaping of the marble. 
To that work the craftsmen of the Revolution addressed 
themselves boldly and betimes. On the third of No- 
vember, 1775, Congress resolved that it be recommended 
to the Provincial Convention of New Hampshire to es- 
tablish such a form of government as in their judgement 
would best produce the happiness of the people, and 
most effectually secure peace and good order in the 
Province, during the continuance of the present dispute 
between Great Britain and the colonies. Next day the 
same advice was given to South Carolina. Six months 
elapsed; and in May 1776 Congress recorded its ear- 
nest desire that any colony, which had not already pro- 
collapse that followed its appearance, are notably illustrated by Washing- 
ton's correspondence, as may be seen in the First Appendix at the end of 
this volume. 


vided itself with a new constitution, should forthwith 
proceed to remedy the omission. *' This resolution," 
said Adams, ** I considered as an epocha, a decisive 
event. It was a measure which I had pursued for a 
whole year, through a scene and a series of anxiety, 
labour, study, argument, and obloquy which was then 
little known, and is now forgotten by all but a very 
few." The ingratitude of oblivion is the common lot of 
public men. Those are fortunate whose private com- 
plaints and sorrows over the fickle memories of man- 
kind never see the light; and happier still is he who 
does not trouble himself about the matter at all. 

Both before and after the Resolution of May 1776 
the reorganisation of local government was going on 
rapidly throughout the colonies ; and those proceedings 
were extraordinarily impressive to English politicians 
who watched them from across the ocean. There was 
something very formidable in the coolness and determi- 
nation of men who could thus legislate under fire.^ 
Massachusetts, with her hands full, and the enemy in- 
side her gates, had no time to spare for the niceties of 
constitution-making, and pursued a short cut to freedom. 
She contented herself with re-enacting, almost in block, 
those ancient rights and privileges which the Parliament 
at Westminster had temporarily extinguished ; and it 
may well be believed that no respect was paid to that 
clause in the British statute which made the revival of 
the Charter dependent on the gracious initiative of the 
Crown.^ Other New England colonies took the same 
course as Massachusetts. They had lived under forms 
of government so liberal that few and superficial changes 
were needed in order to place them in a position to carry 
on business as republics. In each province the King's 
name disappeared from the headings of public Acts; 
and provision was made for the discharge of functions 
which hitherto had belonged to royal Governors who 
had left their State-houses vacant, and who, under the 

1 The Hon. C. J. Fox to Lord Ossory; White's, September 24, 1776. 

2 The American Revolution ; chapter v. 


existing circumstances, were in no hurry to re-inhabit 
them. The new Constitutions of the Northern states 
had nothing monarchical about them, except a solemn 
announcement of allegiance to the King of Kings by 
which their publication was generally accompanied ; but 
on the other side of the Potomac supreme executive 
power was for the most part entrusted to an individual. 
South Carolina built up afresh from the foundation an 
elaborate system, with a General Assembly, a Legisla- 
tive Council of thirteen, a Privy Council of seven, and a 
President whose assent was required before laws became 
valid. Virginia, in her stately fashion, set forth the lines 
on which she proposed to govern herself in a Declara- 
tion of Rights, thoughtfully framed and nobly worded. 
" No free Government," (so that instrument ran,) " can 
be preserved but by a firm adherence to justice, mod- 
eration, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by fre- 
quent recurrence to fundamental principles." 

That last phrase would have had an ominous sound 
if employed by men of certain other races. There have 
been republics in the Southern continent of America 
where recurrence would be had to fundamental prin- 
ciples every time that the party in opposition had 
scraped together enough dollars to purchase a few 
thousand muskets. But the Virginian Declaration of 
Rights was faithfully and literally construed by all who 
gave it their adherence. On the abstract doctrines 
therein laid down was founded a system of government 
which called forth the enduring affection of a proud 
and steadfast population. Eighty-five years afterwards, 
— when in 1861 the South seceded from the Union, 
and a controversy, insoluble except by arms, arose 
between the State of Virginia and the central admin- 
istration, — it became evident that the Old Dominion, 
in the view of a vast majority of its citizens, had a 
first claim on their loyalty. And so it was from the 
very commencement. The generation which made the 
American Revolution witnessed a brilliant proof that 
the local patriotism of Virginians was already an ab- 



sorbing and sufficing passion. Patrick Henry, — who 
always drew force and purpose from contact with his 
native soil, where his early triumphs had been won, — 
took a part in creating a constitution for Virginia, and 
was chosen her Governor. That office he filled so 
often that there was some excuse for French officers 
in the allied army who addressed him on the cover of 
their letters as His Royal Highness.^ At such times as 
he was not the chief ruler of his State, Henry preferred 
to all other honours that of remaining one of her pri- 
vate citizens. In after years, as a notabihty of the 
Revolution, he had only to choose between the elevated 
employments which were pressed upon his acceptance. 
He was elected to the Senate of the United States ; 
and he declined to serve. Washington offered him 
successively the great posts of Secretary for Foreign 
Affairs, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; but he 
refused them both. The political party of his adoption 
urged him eagerly, and all in vain, to have himself put 
forward as candidate for the Vice-Presidency in succes- 
sion to John Adams. He lived to the end at his home 
in Virginia ; — pleading causes in her law-courts ; and 
electrifying her public meetings, on rare and momentous 
occasions, by outbursts of an eloquence to which ad- 
vancing years added dignity, while they did not quench 
its fire. 

The more deliberate, — or in some cases, it may be, 
the half-hearted, — among the colonies were occupied 
during many months in perfecting their organic laws. 
It was not till April 1777 that New York, last of the 
thirteen, promulgated her Constitution. Nevertheless 
at a much earlier date the event had justified those 
statesmen who insisted that the national fabric should 
be built up in solid layers of masonry from below. 
When once the problem had been solved of converting 
each separate colony into a self-governed and indepen- 
dent state, it followed as an axiom, intelligible even to 
the humblest and worst educated citizen, that a federa- 

1 Tyler's Patrick Henry ; chapter xvi. 


tion composed of those states must be emancipated 
from external control. John Adams, in a string of 
precise and homely sentences, had sketched out the 
course which the Revolution thenceforward was bound 
to follow. " A few important subjects," (he wrote to 
his friend William Gushing,) **must be despatched 
before I can return to my family. Every colony must 
be induced to institute a perfect government. All the 
colonies must confederate together in some solemn 
bond of union. The Congress must declare the colonies 
free and independent States ; and ambassadors must be 
sent abroad to foreign courts, to solicit their acknow- 
ledgement of us as sovereign states, and to form with 
them, at least with some of them, commercial treaties 
of friendship and alliance. When these things are once 
completed, I shall think that I have answered the end 
of my creation, and sing my mmc dimittis, return to 
my farm, ride circuits, plead law, or judge causes, just 
which you please." 

That programme was played out to the last letter. 
On the twelfth of April, 1776, the Convention of North 
Carolina expressly ordered its representatives in Con- 
gress to join in a declaration of Independence. Massa- 
chusetts and Rhode Island next renounced their fealty 
to the Crown ; and on the fifteenth of May the Conven- 
tion at Williamsburg directed their delegates at Phila- 
delphia to propose separation from Britain, and 
communicated that resolve to the other colonies in a 
circular letter. All through June the provincial assem- 
blies were declaring their concurrence with the course 
taken by Virginia. Connecticut acceded, and New 
Hampshire, and Maryland. New Jersey, cautious in 
theory, drafted her Constitution in such a form as not to 
exclude the possibility of a reconciliation with the Crown ; 
but at the same time she gave a very practical indication 
of her sentiments by throwing the royal Governor into 
prison, and intimating to her delegates that they had 
better " pass the Rubicon, and vote plump." ^ Delaware 

^ Letter of Jonathan D. Serjeant from Burlington ; June 15, 1776. 



still hesitated ; and the adhesion of New York to the 
party which favoured uncompromising and immediate 
action was of an informal character. South Carolina and 
Georgia had issued instructions to their representatives 
which implied a recognition of national independence, 
without directly naming the word. The Georgian con- 
gressmen, who were patriots to the core, found the 
terms of their commission quite explicit enough for their 
guidance; but the South Carolinian delegates were back- 
ward in the cause of the Revolution, and would not stir 
an inch unless they were given a lead by Pennsylvania. 



Pennsylvania was passing through a political crisis, 
the issue of which had a dominating effect upon the 
future of America. The colony extended across what 
was then, to all intents and purposes, the whole con- 
tinent, from Lake Erie to Delaware Bay. Her western 
territories afforded abundant room, and a hearty wel- 
come, for emigrants in any multitude and of every 
nationality. Her eastern districts were well populated 
and carefully tilled, and replete with accumulated wealth, 
and a solid comfort which in some cases had begun to 
assume the aspect of luxury. Commanding the land- 
ways and waterways then habitually in use, Pennsyl- 
vania could connect, or separate, at pleasure the group 
of Southern colonies on the one hand, and New York 
and New England on the other. But the material ad- 
vantage which she could bring, or refuse, to the Revo- 
lutionary cause was small as compared with the moral 
effect of whatever action she chose to take at this pre- 
cise juncture in American history. 

It is difficult to over-estimate the influence neces- 
sarily exercised upon a great national movement by 
the city in which the earlier stages of that movement 
are conducted. The attitude of Philadelphia in 1775 
and 1776 had an importance, not so great indeed in 
degree, but the same in kind, as the attitude of Lon- 
don during the first sessions of the Long Parliament, and 
of Paris between the meeting of the States General and 
the fall of the Directory. A handful of strangers, lodg- 



ing wherever they can find shelter in the various quar- 
ters of a large town ; dependent on its hospitality ; 
unable to escape the contagion of its enthusiasm, or 
withdraw themselves from the alarming consequences 
of its paroxysms of excitement; hooted or cheered up 
to the very portals of the senate-house, and only too 
glad if they are allowed to deliberate, safe and uninter- 
rupted, within the precincts ; — the makers of a revolution 
would be more than human if they did not come to re- 
gard the local opinion immediately surrounding them 
as the general opinion of the nation. It is true that 
Congress was not exposed to insult or impertinence, 
and still less to open violence. Philadelphia respected 
herself, and honoured her guests ; but the threescore 
delegates, who lived scattered up and down among her 
thirty thousand inhabitants, could not preserve them- 
selves from being sensibly affected by her political 
atmosphere. It mattered to them much what were the 
inclinations of the province and the provincial capital, 
and whether a Constitutional machinery existed for 
making those inclinations felt. 

The Pennsylvanian Assembly, which held its sittings 
within a few yards of the hall where Congress met,^ 
was not in sympathy with the Revolution. In that 
Assembly the Quakers had no longer, as of old, a ma- 
jority ; but their power was still great out of all propor- 
tion to their numbers. Twenty years before, when the 
Friends were reckoned at forty thousand, or about a 
sixth part of the population resident within the colony, 
twenty-eight assemblymen, in a total of thirty-six, wfere 
members of their body. But in 1756, for a most hon- 
ourable reason, they deliberately renounced their mo- 
nopoly of the representation. The Governor and Council 
had embarked upon an Indian war which according to 
the Quakers was unjust, and waged it after a fashion 

^"The Pennsylvania assembly in 1775 gave up its room, (now Inde- 
pendence Hall,) East of the main Entrance of the State House, to the 
Continental Congress, and moved across to the West side, to the Judges' 
Room ; where I believe it finished its existence." Letter to the author 
from the President of Haverford College, Pennsylvania. 


which, even to others than Quakers, appeared to be 
inhumane. Many of the more rigid Friends could not 
find it within their consciences to vote taxes that in their 
view were wickedly misspent, and resigned their places 
in the Assembly. The void was filled by Episcopalians 
attached to the party of the Proprietors ; for the de- 
scendants of William Penn, (with as little sense of his- 
toric fitness as was displayed by Queen Christina, the 
daughter of Gustavus Adolphus, when she became a 
Roman Catholic,) had for the most part gone over to 
the Church of England. A standing contention existed 
between the Friends and the governing family ; and 
Franklin had commenced his ten years' mission to Eng- 
land in the character of an emissary charged to make 
interest with the Ministry and Parliament in London 
against the claims and pretensions of the Proprietors. 
But in 1772 the murmur of an approaching revolution 
warned the two parties, which ruled Pennsylvania, to 
sink their differences, and combine in defence of insti- 
tutions no change in which could by any possibility 
tend to profit, or aggrandisement, for either of them. 
They already held between them most of the property 
in the colony, and all the privileges. The Friends, 
moreover, thought it wrong to fight with anybody; 
and the Proprietary family and their adherents were 
altogether averse to bearing arms against the Crown. 

An assembly so composed, and with such proclivi- 
ties, found the leader that suited it in John Dickinson. 
Born of Quakers, — and as prosperous, as virtuous, and 
as order-loving as the best of them, — he hung loosely 
on the Society, and was regarded by its members as 
an eminent and respected man of the world, whose 
aberrations from their strict rule they did not feel called 
upon to reprehend. Writing, not in Quaker language, 
he had opposed Townshend's financial policy with 
closely reasoned prose, and in spirited verse which was 
read or chanted by everyone who objected to the tea- 
duty. As a poet, Dickinson was trammelled by the 
difficulty of expressing in a popular chorus the precise 


constitutional relations which ought to exist between 
American tax-payers and the British Treasury;^ but 
the " Farmer's Letters " had deservedly established 
his fame, at home and abroad, as a literary champion 
of colonial rights. Those rights he was wiUing to 
defend sword in hand, or, (if his countrymen would not 
trust him with a command,) gun at shoulder; but all 
that large class who were partisans of royalty, without 
venturing so to declare themselves, felt a comfortable 
assurance that hostilities, with Dickinson as war-minis- 
ter, would not be ruinous to the interests of the Crown. 
By April 1776 revolutionary feeling had grown so 
hot in the colony that it became necessary for the 
Assembly to make a demonstration of patriotism ; and 
a course was adopted which in Dickinson's view was 
righteous, and to his followers appeared comparatively 
innocuous. Under his inspiration a bill was passed 
increasing the members of the Pennsylvania legislative 
body by seventeen, in order that those new ideas, which 
had become prevalent since the last general election, 
might find spokesmen within the walls. A Resolution 
was carried, — which the Quakers could not support, 
but were well able to obey, — approving the military 
association of all who had no scruples against bearing 
arms. Three battalions of regular infantry, and a large 
issue of paper money, were voted ; and then it was 
decided by a great majority to maintain unaltered the 
instructions which, from the very first, had been 
imposed upon the Pennsylvanian delegates in the 
Continental Congress. The last paragraph of those 
instructions was conceived as follows : " Though the 
oppressive measures of the British Parliament have 
compelled us to resist their violence by force of arms, 
yet we strictly enjoin you that you, in behalf of this 
colony, dissent from and utterly reject any proposition 

* " In Freedom we're born, and in Freedom we'll live. 
Our purses are ready, 
Steady, friends, steady ! 
Not as slaves, but as freemen, our money we'll give." 


that may cause, or lead to, a separation from our 
mother-country, or a change in the form of this gov- 

Dickinson's political platform was too narrow, and 
too delicately balanced, to accommodate any large part 
of the heterogeneous population which swarmed in 
Pennsylvania. In the seventeenth century three thou- 
sand Germans, who had escaped from French barbari- 
ties in the Palatinate, had found their way to America. 
Repulsed from other colonies, they were accepted with 
open arms by a community which had learned tolerance 
and generosity from the precepts and example of its 
founder. Securely planted in the rural districts of 
Pennsylvania these fugitives attracted thither a con- 
stant stream of industrious workmen, and good Protes- 
tants, from Suabia and- Switzerland. The German 
immigrants were soon counted by scores of thousands. 
Unambitious, and not so sure of their English as to 
venture on airing it in debate, they did what gratitude 
bade them, and very generally sent a Quaker to the 
Assembly as their representative. They took this 
course the more readily because, being mostly poor and 
always thrifty, they trusted the Friends as economical 
administrators of the provincial finances. But of late 
years the case was altered, and the same motives of 
parsimony made German farmers intensely hostile to 
the claims of the British exchequer. Those claims, 
(said one who knew Pennsylvania well,) very forcibly 
appealed to the pocket, and impelled the great body of 
foreign settlers to side with the patriots. "And as for 
the genuine sons of Hibernia, it was enough for them 
to know that England was the antagonist."^ 

Those sons constituted a large and extremely formid- 
able family ; — although their genuineness as Hiber- 

^ Memoirs of a Life chiefly passed in Pennsylvania within the Last 
Sixty Years ; Edinburgh, 1822. Much curious, and quite unprejudiced, 
information on the lighter aspects of the American troubles, and on the 
composition of both armies in the war, may be found in this volume, 
which was edited, with a preface of warm appreciation, by no less a writer 
than John Gait. 


nians would have been disputed by Roman Catholics in 
the south of their native island ; for they were Scotch- 
Irish from Ulster. With both the ruling sects of the 
colony they maintained an irreconcilable feud. Their 
fathers and grandfathers had been driven across the 
seas by the vexatious treatment, petty in all but its in- 
sanity, which as Presbyterians they had endured at the 
hands of Bishops of the EstabHshed Church in Ireland. 
And, again, the memories of ancient persecution stood 
between them and the Quakers ; although in that case 
the relation was inverted. Presbyterians had been 
tyrannised over by Episcopalians in Tyrone and London- 
derry; but the Friends had suffered cruelly, both in 
England and Massachusetts, from the peculiar antipathy 
with which they were regarded by Presbyterians. That 
antipathy originally sprang from a controversy about 
one of those theological points which formerly men 
thought vital, but which are meaningless now. Already 
in 1776 people required, in order to hate each other, 
something besides a divergence of view about the ques- 
tion whether, or not, there was a limitation to the effect 
of Saving Grace; but Quakers and Presbyterians in 
Pennsylvania had a more recent and acute motive for 
mutual dissatisfaction. The Scotch-Irish to the west 
of the Susquehanna resided, isolated and armed, on 
farms which they themselves had cleared ; and they had 
no defence against a raid of savages except their own 
vigilance and courage. A fierce and resolute race, they 
lived not indeed in the fear, but in the contemplation, 
of a probabiHty that their families might be butchered, 
and the fruits of their labour destroyed, in the course of 
one bloody night. It was hardly in human nature, — 
it most certainly was not in theirs, — to feel charity 
towards such an enemy. To the Quaker, in his beauti- 
ful country-seat among the groves which skirted Phila- 
delphia, the red man presented himself in the light of a 
distant and appropriate object for evangelising efforts ; 
but the proverbial saying that the only good Indian was 
a dead Indian, (a grim doctrine which cut at the very 


root of missionary enterprise,) represented the creed ot 
all but a few among the backwoodsmen. For these 
reasons there was no love in Pennsylvania between the 
Ulstermen and the partisans of the Crown ; and, as 
soon as a quarrel arose against the Crown itself, the 
Presbyterians of the western districts were revolu- 
tionists almost to a man. The German settlers in 
America, when once emancipated from those stringent 
military obligations which they leave behind them at 
home, have never shown themselves a particularly mar- 
tial people ; but the North Irish colonists had brought 
over with them an ineradicable conviction that opinions 
worth holding were worth fighting for. A record has 
been preserved of the nationalities in a company of 
Pennsylvanian volunteers which marched to join the 
army of Washington. Out of seventy-three privates, 
two were from Germany, twenty from Ireland, and six 
from Great Britain ; while forty-five enlisted under the 
designation of Americans. 

Among those Americans some were Quakers ; though 
they did not remain Quakers long. There was search- 
ing of heart, and trying of spirit, for all brave men in 
America ; and of such the Society in the main consisted. 
The early history of the Friends is one long record of 
invincible fortitude displayed in the presence of atro- 
cious malevolence and unsparing ridicule. Theirs was 
a courage of the sort which the world calls passive, and 
not active. The distinction is an idle one ; for nobody 
who has seen the Friends working in the thick of 
a famine or a fever, directing the operations of the life- 
brigade on a stormy sea-coast, or immersed in the heat 
and turmoil of a contested election, will ever doubt that 
they are potentially the keenest fighters. Those Penn- 
sylvanian Quakers, who belonged to the popular party, 
found themselves in a grave predicament; for they had 
to resolve whether they would stand idle and unarmed 
at a time when the country of their selection was in 
danger. A considerable number of them rallied to the 
defence of the Revolution, and were expelled from the 


Body as persons unfaithful to its principles. Their 
cases were considered at the Monthly Meetings in the 
city of Philadelphia; and all who furthered, or even 
remotely abetted, warlike proceedings lost their birth- 
right in the Society. Recreant Friends were "dis- 
owned " by dozens and scores on a great variety of 
charges ; — for assuming a military appearance ; for 
joining the American army, and attending a stage-play ; 
for fitting out an armed vessel ; for making weapons of 
war to the destruction of their fellow-men ; for being 
in an engagement where many were slain ; for selling 
prize rum which their relatives had captured when 
privateering. As against four hundred, who were faith- 
fully dealt with on account of help given to the Ameri- 
can cause, twenty only were punished for taking open 
part with the British. That disproportion in the num- 
bers of the outcasts by no means represented the bal- 
ance of political opinion in the Society; for Quakers who 
were Patriots had a much stronger motive for declaring 
themselves partisans than Quakers who were Loyalists. 
People must be audacious, busy, and much in evidence 
if they desire to help on a revolution ; whereas a man 
may do something to hinder one who stays quietly at 
home, grumbling against the members of the provisional 
government, throwing difficulties in the way of their 
tax-gatherer, and refusing to pay for a substitute in the 
militia until his bed is sold from under him.^ 

That was the course taken by the great majority of 
Quakers; and the neighbours among whom they lived 
were at no loss to interpret the inward sentiments which 
their attitude betokened.^ Paine roundly called them 
dishonest respecters of persons, who addressed all their 

1 A Quaker, drawn for the militia, was bound to see his goods actually 
seized and sold, under pain of disownment. That penalty was inflicted 
on one offender for " Purposely placing money before a person who was 
about seizing his effects to satisfy a fine imposed on him in lieu of military 
service," and on another for " Countenancing the payment of a demand 
for the releasing of his cow." 

2 "The official position was one of neutrality; but individually the 
Friends could hardly be neutral. It seems almost certain that the men 
of property and social standing in Philadelphia, like the wealthy mer- 


sermons about the wickedness of war to one party in 
the quarrel. " If," he cried, " ye really preach from 
conscience, and mean not to make a political hobby- 
horse of your religion, convince the world thereof by 
proclaiming your doctrine to our enemies ; for they like- 
wise bear arms. Give us proof of your sincerity by 
publishing it at St. James's. Preach repentance to 
your King ; and do not spend your partial invectives 
against the injured and insulted only, but, like faithful 
ministers, cry aloud and spare none." The Quakers, 
however, had no mind to rebuke their Sovereign ; with 
whose proceedings, indeed, they were very fairly satis- 
fied. On First Month Twentieth, 1776, the Meeting 
for Sufferings, — a council hardly inferior in weight and 
authority to the Legislative Assembly of the Colony, — 
issued a general address defining the position of the 
Friends. The closing paragraph of this document ex- 
pressed unqualified abhorrence of all such writings and 
measures as indicated a design to break off the happy 
connection hitherto enjoyed with the Kingdom of Great 
Britain, and to impair the just and necessary subordina- 
tion to the King and those who were placed in authority 
under him. 

The creed formulated in these antique phrases was 
very little to the taste of all, or most, Philadelphians. 
When the news of Lexington had arrived in the city, 
the flame of patriotism blazed hot and high. Two 
thousand volunteers were soon at drill. Townsmen as 
they were, they knew the use of their limbs and their 
weapons ; for manly exercises had long been of great 
account in the community. Philadelphians enjoyed 
every facility for becoming expert swimmers and oars- 
men ; they prided themselves, with some show of reason, 
on being the most elegant skaters in the world ; and, 

chants of New York and Boston, wera loyalists, though in their case 
passively so." That is the account given by Mr. Isaac Sharplcss, tht 
President of Haverford College, in his History of Qtiaker Government in 
Pennsylvania, MatJ-iieu Dumas, bringing a fresh mind from France, very 
soon detected that " the Quakers, with an outward show of indifference, 
at the bottom of their hearts inclined towards the party of the King." 


when a lad was in cash, his first thought was to buy 
powder and shot, and hire a skiff in which to hunt duck 
and water-rail along the sedgy banks, and among the 
reed-clad islets, of the Delaware. The enthusiasm of 
war was not confined to the less wealthy classes. One 
company of light infantry went by the title of the 
Quaker Blues. Another, recruited from the gilded 
youth of a town where gold was in plenty, called them- 
selves the Greens, and were spoken of by everybody 
else as the Silk Stockings. The frugality and austerity, 
which had been the fashion in New England ever since 
the outbreak of the Revolution, took a modified form 
in the easy-mannered capital of Pennsylvania. There, 
we are told, the serious aspect of affairs brought tem- 
perance into vogue ; and, instead of frequenting tavern 
suppers, young men of family generally spent their even- 
ings among their female acquaintance. They flirted 
more, and drank less ; but even so their abstinence 
stopped short of asceticism. The captain of the Green 
Company owned a noted cellar; and "capacious demi- 
johns of Madeira" were set out in the court-yard where 
his men mustered, for their refreshment before march- 
ing to parade. It was a jolly time; in marked contrast 
to the hardships that were in store for them all, and to 
the humiliations of defeat and captivity which soon be- 
fell very many among their number. 

The worse educated and more boisterous votaries of 
the Revolution could not repress their pugnacity until 
they had an opportunity of displaying it on the field of 
honour. In Philadelphia, as elsewhere, they carried on 
irregular and most unchivalrous hostilities against those 
who disagreed with them. One Tory lawyer received 
a box with a halter coiled inside it. Another, who no- 
ticed a volume entitled Trials fpr High Treason on a 
bookseller's counter, " asked the gentleman who kept 
the store whether it would not be a proper book for Mr. 
Adams to peruse." Next day the unfortunate loyalist 
was carted round the streets, and only escaped worse 
treatment on account of the meekness with which, at 


every stopping-place on the route, he thanked the 
crowd for their forbearance and civiHty. He was the 
father of Leigh Hunt. In 18 13 the son paid a heavy 
penalty for bantering an elderly Regent ; and the father, 
in 1776, had found it not less dangerous to laugh at an 
infant, or rather an embryo, Republic. Physicians, as 
usual, were allowed to think as they pleased without 
being molested ; but even they were expected to repay 
lenity by discretion. Doctor Kearsley, who talked loud 
in disparagement of the Revolution, and was most in- 
consequently suspected of plotting secretly against it, 
was seized by a party of militiamen, and hustled, bleed- 
ing and indignant, into " the Tory cart." His profes- 
sion was so far respected that he escaped being tarred 
and feathered, and was supplied with as much punch 
as he wished to drink. The poor man, however, did 
not long survive his ride, and died with a mind dis- 
ordered by the shock. 

The only conceivable excuse for these detestable 
practices was that they were perpetrated by men who 
had no voice in deciding into which scale of the balance, 
at a supreme national crisis, the vast weight of their 
native province should be thrown. In May 1776 the 
additional members of the Pennsylvanian assembly fell 
to be chosen ; but the electorate was narrow, and in no 
sense entitled to speak for the colony. The franchise 
was denied to every man who could not show fifty dol- 
lars. Many thousand Germans, zealots for liberty, 
were not allowed to vote unless they were naturalised ; 
and they could not be naturalised without taking the 
oath of allegiance to the King. Many hundred ener- 
getic politicians were fighting in Canada, or living in 
tents at the military stations along the Hudson river, 
while civil power was left "to the timid who remained 
at home."^ The Proprietary party easily held their own 
at the poll in the country districts ; and only one Patriot 
was returned among the four representatives allotted to 
the capital. 

^ Bancroft : Vol. V., page 240, of the Centenary edition. 


Multitudes of excellent citizens, who had never soiled 
their hands by participation in terrorism and outrage, 
had looked forward to the election as a slender chance 
of bringing constitutional pressure to bear upon the 
action of the Assembly ; and that hope was now gone. 
The prospect was indeed appalling. Far the largest 
army that had ever been sent across the ocean by the 
most powerful nation in the world was drawing near 
their shores from day to day. Hordes of foreign mer- 
cenaries had already been enrolled for their destruction ; 
and the supply would never be exhausted as long as 
there was a venal prince in Germany, or until the British 
Treasury had lost credit to borrow. On every frontier 
the savages were waiting, armed and painted, until 
their Great Father should speak the word which would 
turn them loose upon his disobedient sons and daughters. 
Populous and flourishing seaside places had been laid 
in ashes under orders, still in force, which expressly 
enjoined that towns should be destroyed at that season 
of the year when the houseless inhabitants would suffer 
the most severely. And, — more alarming than all be- 
sides, — a humble petition, dictated, (it is true,) by a 
well-wisher of the King, but subscribed by the most 
eminent among the opponents of the King's policy, 
had elicited no response. That ominous silence had 
been broken only for the purpose of proclaiming that 
every colonist who took a part in the civil government 
of America, or who aided its defence, was a rebel and 
traitor, liable, just as much as in days of old were the 
fugitives from Sedgemoor or Culloden, to the extreme 
penalty of the law. 

Those were the circumstances under which the voice 
of Pennsylvania was stifled, and her sword-arm para- 
lysed. It was a situation like that of France in August 
and September 1792, when the terror and wrath of a 
threatened and bewildered people deluged Paris with 
blood, and blackened history with a stain which time 
will never efface. But the Philadelphians of 1776, 
though exposed to the same trials and temptations, 


comported themselves in a manner which left nothing 
to regret. A population of Englishmen, and Northern 
Irishmen, they were not inclined to sit quietly down, 
and wait for the day when they would learn which of 
them were to be hanged, and which pardoned. It was 
a work of necessity to disentangle themselves from the 
trammels of the existing Constitution ; but they set 
about that work decently and in order. No life was 
taken ; no store was plundered ; not a coat was torn, 
or a pane of glass broken. There assembled in the 
State-house yard a crowd too large to count, and 
guessed by various witnesses at from four to seven 
thousand householders. It was nothing more nor less 
than an exceptionally large Town-meeting. The gentle- 
men who summoned it had defined their position in a 
spirited manifesto, putting forward no official claims to 
public obedience, but describing themselves as watch- 
men for the province, who perceived, and were prepared 
to combat, the dangers of the hour.^ The meeting 
unanimously voted that the Instructions issued by the 
Assembly to their delegates in the Continental Congress 
were of a nature to withdraw Pennsylvania from a 
happy union with other colonies. It was then moved 
that the present House of Assembly, not having the 
authority of the people for that purpose, could not, 
without usurpation, proceed to form a new government 
for the province. From that proposition only one per- 
son dissented; and the Committee of the City and 
Liberties of Philadelphia was accordingly directed to sum- 
mon a conference of the committees of every county in 
the province, and to make arrangements for a Constituent 
Convention, which should be chosen by the people. 

1 " Friends and fellow-countrymen, the question before you is short 
and easy. You will be called upon to declare whether you will support 
the Union of the Colonies in opposition to the Instructions of the House 
of Assembly, or whether you will support the Assembly against the Union 
of the Colonies. We have declared for the former; and we will at the 
hazard of our lives support the Union. We have been open in our affairs. 
The sense of this city hath been publicly taken, and we will not be belied 
by Tories. Our situation makes us a kind of sentinels for the safety of 
the Province." American Archives : Series IV., Vol. VI. 



That day extinguished the self-confidence and self. 
respect of the Pennsylvanian Assembly. Its sittings 
thenceforward were infrequent, and its proceedings nu- 
gatory. The members gladly found engagements which 
kept them elsewhere ; and, when a quorum was obtained, 
they could resolve upon nothing more dignified than 
neither to advise, nor forbid, a Declaration of Indepen- 
dence, inasmuch as they trusted ** the ability, prudence, 
and integrity " of their delegates. That trust was not 
shared by the majority of their countrymen. On the 
eighteenth of June the committees of Philadelphia, and 
of the several counties, met in a provincial conference ; 
and the Legislative Assembly made its final exit from 
the political stage. The members confessed, in a for- 
mal vote, their despair of being able to attend in 
sufficient numbers for the due discharge of business. 
They adjourned for a couple of months; and the 
announcement of the adjournment was intended, and 
accepted, as an abdication. The provincial conference 
was held in Carpenter's Hall ; a fine, simple, brick 
building, with a bold pediment and a deep cornice, most 
appropriate for the sober, durable work which was 
being done within. There, at all events, no difficulty 
arose about a quorum. In the presence, and with the 
approbation, of a hundred and four members, the 
government of the colony was declared incompetent, 
and a new one was ordered to be formed on the 
authority of the people only. For the purpose of 
obtaining that authority it was determined to revive 
William Penn's "Great Law" of December 1682, and 
to confer upon every tax-payer the right of voting to 
elect a convention charged with the duty of making a 
reformed Constitution for Pennsylvania ; and, before 
another week was out, ** the Conference, with perfect 
unanimity, all its members giving their voices one by 
one, pronounced their wilHngness to concur in a vote of 
Congress declaring the united Colonies to be free and 
independent States." ^ 

1 Bancroft ; Vol. V., page 309. The proceedings of the Assembly, and 
of the conference, are recorded at length in the American Archives, 

** COMMON SENSE" 1 47 

The Pennsylvanian revolution had been accom. 
plished ; and meanwhile the larger movement was 
rapidly approaching to its consummation. A pro- 
digious impulse had of late been given to the national 
sentiment of the colonies by a colonist of such recent 
adoption that he had been an Englishman for twice as 
many years as he had been an American for months. 
Paine emigrated to Philadelphia at the end of 1774, 
bearing a letter of introduction from Doctor Franklin 
which described him as an ingenious worthy young man. 
He seemed young, no doubt, to Franklin, who was 
vainly endeavouring to feel old at seventy ; but Paine 
was already eight and thirty, and had left behind him 
in England a wrecked career and a ruined home. He 
was separated from his wife ; and the Commissioners of 
Inland Revenue had ejected him from the employment 
by which he earned his bread. Nor can it be said that 
his antecedents pointed him out as a leader of the popu- 
lar party in America ; for his misfortune had arisen 
from his having been too outspoken a champion of the 
claims and interests of excisemen. On the other hand, 
enemies of the Revenue might account it in his favour 
that he had passed among his official superiors for a 
notoriously lax and inefficient ganger. 

Far from immaculate, Paine was not without his 
excuses. The constitution of society in the country 
from which he came was ill suited to humble men who 
were more desirous to express their political opinions 
than to improve their material fortunes. For their 
views on public questions no demand existed ; and, if 
they tried to create one, the Court of King's Bench, and 
the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, might 
soon have had a good deal that was very unpleasant to 
say to them. Cut off from more congenial opportunities 
of intellectual expansion, Paine's energies had hitherto 
been directed into sordid, and even vicious, channels ; 
but there was in him something higher and better than 
had been called forth by the circumstances in which 
the prime of his life was passed. Franklin asked his 


correspondents in America to put the newcomer intd 
the way of obtaining the post of a clerk, or assistant 
surgeon, or usher in a school ; but Paine turned his 
attention to literature. His articles were the making 
of a publication which had lately been started in 
Philadelphia; and he soon became the editor. He 
conducted the magazine with great and ever increasing 
success, which was the more remarkable and honour- 
able because he never shrank from the defence of novel, 
and sometimes most unpopular, principles. He con- 
demned duelling, and the deliberate or thoughtless ill- 
treatment of animals. He spoke up against negro slavery 
quite as emphatically as against hereditary privileges 
and religious intolerance. He advocated international 
arbitration ; international and internal copyright ; and 
justice to women, especially in the form of increased 
facilities for divorce. Many causes which, for good or 
otherwise, have since prevailed in America, had their 
first, or very nearly their first, exposition in the pages 
of the " Pennsylvania Magazine." During eighteen 
months, (so a competent judge has pronounced,) there 
probably never was the same amount of good literary 
work done on a salary of fifty pounds a year.^ 

In the second week of January, 1776, a pamphlet 
called " Common Sense " appeared in Philadelphia. 
The production had those merits which the title 
indicated. The author, whoever he was, made no pre- 
tence to guide his readers through the Dismal Swamp of 
the financial controversy, — that intricate and slippery 
region where even Edmund Burke had confessed 
himself afraid to tread.^ But he was familiar with 

1 The Life of Thomas Paine^ by Moncure Daniel Conway ; chapter iv. 

2 •' Sir, I think you must perceive that I am resolved this day to have 
nothing at all to do with the question of the right of taxation. I do not ex- 
amine whether the giving away a man's money be a power excepted and 
reserved out of the general trust of government ; or whether, on the 
contrary, a right of taxation is necessarily involved in the general principle of 
legislation, and inseparable from the ordinary supreme power. These are 
deep questions, where great names militate against each other ; where rea- 
son is perplexed, and an appeal to authorities only thickens the confusion. 


public transactions, and in touch with popular opinion ; 
and he gave forcible and glowing expression to the 
thoughts and aspirations which surged around him in a 
hundred thousand souls. The poet has been described, 
by a poet, as one who expresses that which is only 
thought by others ; ^ and the same is the secret of 
the orator and the publicist. Learned men, a cen- 
tury afterwards, construct an elaborate catalogue of 
the reasons and considerations which ought to have 
governed, whether they did or not, the actors in 
historical events ; but the true motives, that once 
swayed great multitudes, have to be sought in those 
speeches and writings which stirred them at the time. 
The author of " Common Sense " has not unfrequently 
been criticised as superficial ; and ill-educated and in- 
experienced perhaps he was. But he saw beyond pre- 
cedents and statutes, and constitutional facts or fictions, 
into the depths of human nature ; and he knew that, 
if men are to fight to the death, it must be for reasons 
which all can understand. 

America, (so the writer declared,) would flourish as 
much, and probably much more, if no European power 
had anything to do with her government. The articles 
of commerce by which she had enriched herself were 
not articles of fancy and luxury, but the prime necessa- 
ries of life ; and she would always have a market in 
Europe for her produce while eating was the custom of 
that continent. She gained no profit from the English 
connection, and she suffered in her dignity. A greater 
absurdity could not be conceived than three millions of 

For high and reverend authorities lift up their heads on both sides, and 
there is no sure footing in the middle. This point is 

* The great Serbonian bog, 
Betwixt Damiata and Mount Casius old, 
Where armies whole have sunk.' 
I do not intend to be overwhelmed in that bog, though in such respectable 
company." Burke's Speech on his Resolutions for Conciliation with Amer« 
ica ; March 22, 1775. 
1 « You tell 

What we felt only." 

The Last Ride Together ^ by Robert Browning. 


people running to their sea-coast, every time a ship ar- 
rived from London, to know what portion of liberty they 
should enjoy. Let alone the humiliation, Americans 
endured great practical inconvenience by their subjec- 
tion to a nation so far distant from them, and so very 
ignorant about all which concerned them. To be for 
ever travelling three or four thousand miles with a tale 
or a petition, and waiting four or five months for an 
answer which, when obtained, wanted five or six more 
to explain it, would in a few years be looked upon as 
folly and childishness. There was a time during which 
such a condition of things had been proper ; there was 
a proper time for it to cease; and that time was the 
date when the first shots were fired at Lexington. " The 
period of debate is closed. Arms, in the last resource, 
must decide the contest. A new era for politics is 
struck. A new method of thinking has arisen. All 
plans and proposals prior to that nineteenth of April 
are like the almanacs of last year." 

That was the way to write, if a man wanted to be 
read ; and ** Common Sense " was read to some purpose. 
It would be difficult to name any human composition 
which has had an effect at once so instant, so extended, 
and so lasting. It flew through numberless editions. 
It was pirated, and parodied, and imitated, and translated 
into the language of every country where the new Re- 
public had well-wishers, and could hope to procure 
allies. Parisians were of opinion that it had a greater 
run in France even than in America.^ It was reprinted 
in all the colonies with a frequency surprising at a time 
when colonial printing-houses were very few. Three 
months from its first appearance, a hundred and twenty 
thousand copies had been sold in America alone ; and, 
before the demand ceased, it was calculated that half a 
million had seen the light. Demosthenes has said that 
the power of oratory is as much in the ear as in the 
tongue. The extraordinary success of this famous 
pamphlet proved, if it needed proving, that the power 

^ American Archives ; August 1776, 


of authorship is as much in the reader as in the writer. 
" In the elements of its strength it was precisely fitted 
to the hour, to the spot, and to the passions. It was 
meant for plain men in desperate danger, and despe- 
rately in earnest." ^ 

According to the contemporary newspapers, " Com- 
mon Sense" turned thousands in New York to Inde- 
pendence, who could not endure the idea before ; in 
Pennsylvania and the Carolinas it was read by all, and 
few put it down unconvinced ; it had done wonders in 
Maryland, and worked nothing short of miracles, for, 
all over the province, it had made Tories into Whigs ; 
while even in Massachusetts, where the margin for con- 
version was small, it added a perceptible amount of 
heat to the fire of patriotism. Authoritative testimony 
to the amazing influence of "Common Sense" remains 
on record in the private correspondence of innumerable 
individuals. Mrs. John Adams, in a letter which must 
have less than half pleased her husband, confessed 
herself charmed with the sentiments of the piece, and 
unable to imagine how an honest heart could hesitate 
one moment at adopting them. General Charles Lee, 
whose heart was as honest as his vanity would permit, 
owned that its perusal had brought him round to a 
belief in the necessity of separation ; and Washington 
placed its '* sound doctrine and unanswerable reasoning " 
on a level of importance with the " flaming arguments " 
which went up from the burning houses of Falmouth 
and Norfolk. ** My countrymen," he wrote, "will come 
reluctantly into the idea of independence, but time and 
persecution bring wonderful things to pass; and, by 

1 Tyler's Literary History ; chapter xxi., section vii. Professor Tyler, 
who always writes with force, but always with measure, thus introduces the 
subject of the pamphlet : " In one sentiment all persons, Tories and 
Whigs, seemed perfectly to agree : namely, in abhorrence of the project of 
separation from the empire. Suddenly, however, and within a period of 
less than six months, the majority of the W^higs turned completely round, 
and openly declared for Independence. Among the facts necessary to 
enable us to account for this almost unrivalled political somersault, is that 
of the appearance of * Common Sense.' " 


letters vhich I have lately received from Virginia, I find 
* Common Sense ' is working a powerful change there 
in the minds of many men." 

The authorship was attributed to some of the most 
distinguished names in America. It was reported that 
the Prince of Wales was caught by his mother reading 
" Dr. Franklin's pamphlet * Common Sense ' " in a cor- 
ner of the Palace, and stoutly refused to confess how 
it had come into his possession.^ The credit of the 
book was frequently given to Samuel Adams, who had 
been a literary gladiator, and no lover of monarchy, 
from his youth onwards. While still at college, in 
presence of all the Harvard dignitaries, he had de- 
fended the thesis that it was lawful to resist the Su- 
preme Magistrate, if the Commonwealth could not be 
otherwise preserved. His talents were acknowledged 
by friend and foe. With his own party he passed for 
" the most correct, genteel, and artful pen in America; " 
and Governor Bernard had declared, with a round oath, 
that every dip of that pen stung like a horned snake. 
Bostonians, whose business or pleasure kept them late 
out of bed, seldom failed, however far the night was 
spent, to see a light in a certain window which indicated 
" that Sam Adams was hard at work writing against the 
Tories." The most aggressive of controversialists, he 
laid it down as a canon so to conduct a dispute as always 
to keep your adversary in the wrong : and thousands of 
people, who were acquainted with his polemical methods 
and his political creed, would have it that the Junius of 
America was Samuel Adams, and no other. 

In the House of Commons, and in some other 

^ The belief that Franklin had been the author of Common Sense was 
still held in 1824 by Paul Louis Courier, " Happy was Franklin, who 
saw his country free, having done more than anyone else for her freedom 
by his famous Common Sense, that tract of two sheets of print. Never did 
any portly volume effect so much for the human race. Rallying all hearts 
and minds to the party of Independence, it decided the issue of that 
great conflict which, ended for America, is still proceeding all over the 
rest of the world." So wrote Courier in his Pamphlet of Pamphlets, — 
the latest in date of those exquisite productions which were the first-fruits 
of the great harvest of French nineteenth century literature. 

« COMMON SENSE ** 1 5 3 

quarters, the book was ascribed to John Adams.^ More 
than three years afterwards, when he landed on Gallic 
soil, he was hailed as the famous Adams, the celebrated 
member of Congress, whose wonderful pamphlet 
France, and all Europe, had received with rapture. 
The first half of the compliment lost something in value 
when he became aware that fashionable Paris, which 
never mistook Benjamin Franklin for anybody else, was 
not very clear in its mind as to whether the famous 
Adams was John or Samuel. And to be credited with 
the paternity of '* Common Sense " was still less accept- 
able, inasmuch as he disagreed with two-thirds of the 
volume, and could not abide the real author. 

That personage had been in no haste to disclose 
himself. In some editions the book was announced on 
the title-page as having been composed by an English- 
man. In others it was described as the work of a man 
unconnected with any party, and under no sort of 
influence, public or private, except that of reason and 
principle; but, by the summer of 1776, it was generally 
known that Paine was the writer. He was accused by 
John Adams, (as if it mattered,) of having been fur- 
nished by others with his more telling arguments, and 
especially with his title, which was the best portion of 
the book. One of the recommendations contained in 
" Common Sense " Adams held to be so impolitic that 
he published a brief, and rather timid, protest,^ the 
appearance of which procured him a visit from Paine. 
Considering that Adams regarded Paine as "a disas- 
trous meteor," and his literary style as suitable for an 

1 On the twenty-fourth of April, 1776, Rigby argued that the Americans 
aimed at Independence. " He deduced this opinion from Mr. Adams's 
pamphlet called Common Sense, in which he without scruple talked of 
everything short of Independency as ridiculous, and wrote in such a style 
that no man here could lay claim to common sense, and not see the drift 
of the writer." 

2 " Thoughts on Government, Applicable to the Present State of the 
American Colonies; In a letter from a Gentleman to a Friend; Phila- 
delphia, 1776." It was a reply to Paine's advocacy of a single legislative 


emigrant from Newgate, ^ the interview was sufficiently 
amicable. Before it ended, Paine confided to Adams 
that he had some thoughts of publishing his views on 
religion, but believed that he had best postpone it to 
the latter part of life ; — which, if he desired to retain 
the confidence of New England Puritans, must in his 
case be called a judicious resolution. The hold which 
he had acquired over American opinion remained un- 
impaired for many years to come. His reputation 
gained, rather than lost, by the attempts of Tory 
writers to refute him. A whole first edition of the 
most able among the answers to his pamphlet has 
perished, and is said to have been burned by the Sons 
of Liberty. The incendiaries, however, showed their 
discrimination; for they spared another reply to "Com- 
mon Sense" entitled "Plain Truth, by Candidus,'* 
which is so forlorn a production that in our own day 
more than one admirer of the American loyalists has 
been at pains to prove that his own special hero had no 
hand in the writing of it. 

Paine got nothing from his book except celebrity, 
and a consciousness that he had powerfully promoted 
the spread of opinions which he sincerely held. It was 
said in South Carolina that the author of " Common 
Sense " deserved a statue of gold ; but none of that 
metal reached him as the reward of a performance 
which still is the high-water mark of success in ephem- 
eral literature. He was denounced in the " Pennsyl- 
vania Gazette," in a communication signed by Cato, as 
an interested writer, and a stranger meddling with 
American affairs. Cato was pretty well known to be 
the Reverend Doctor William Smith, Provost of the 

"^Autobiography of John Adams. Adams disliked Paine from the 
moment that he first met him; but the contemptuous expressions quoted 
in the text are of much later date. The Autobiography was written after 
Paine had published The Age of Reason, and The Rights of Man ; and 
when he was a notorious partisan, and Adams a prominent adversary, of 
the French Revolution. In 1776 an American patriot would hardly have 
ventured, even in the privacy of a journal, to handle the author of Com* 
mon Sense so disrespectfully. 


University of Philadelphia ; a man altogether devoid of 
sympathy with those who do public work gratis. To 
that untiring and ubiquitous solicitor for Church prefer- 
ment Paine replied that Cato was a stranger nowhere, 
and a slave everywhere. So much revenge he allowed 
himself to take ; but he did not condescend to repel the 
unworthy imputation, which had been levelled against 
his motives, by vaunting, or even mentioning, his own 
disinterestedness. He sold his book at a price that 
constituted a renunciation of all personal profit; and 
he subsequently followed the same course with regard 
to other publications which had only less vogue than 
his first pamphlet. He surrendered a fortune in the 
case of that pamphlet alone ; and ** notwithstanding this 
experience Paine also gave to the States the copyright 
of his * Crisis ' ; was taunted as a gazetteer ; ate his 
crust contentedly ; and the peace found him a penniless 
patriot, who might easily have had fifty thousand 
pounds in his pocket."^ 

John Adams, — a good workman, but one who quar- 
relled with his tools, — decried the merits of ** Common 
Sense " ; and yet that book rendered the main exploit of 
his own life possible, and in the later stages almost easy. 
The direction in which ideas had been set marching 
showed itself first, according to the custom of the 
colonies, in the tone of the sermons. So late as Feb- 
ruary 1776, Provost William Smith, who had been in- 
vited by Congress to deliver a funeral eulogy in honour 
of General Montgomery, had taken that curious oppor- 
tunity of announcing that the sentiments of the body 
which he addressed were opposed to Independence ; 
and a considerable number of the members, (though not 
a majority,) were in favour of thanking the orator, and 
requesting him to print the oration. But already in the 

1 Conway's Paine; chapter vi. The publisher of Common Sense 
sent in a bill to the author of nearly thirty pounds for presentation copies. 
That amount appears to have represented the final balance on the whole 


ensuing May, when John Adams went to hear a dis- 
course on the signs of the times, the preacher treated 
him to a comparison between George the Third and 
Pharaoh, and an assurance that Providence, which had 
liberated the Jews, would do as much for the Ameri- 
cans. The part which man had to play in that enter- 
prise was all the more likely to be successful because 
the chief of the actors regarded himself as a chosen in- 
strument. ** Is it not," Adams wrote to his wife, "a say- 
ing of Moses, ' Who am I, that I should go in and out 
before this great people ' ? When I consider the great 
events which have passed, and those greater which are 
rapidly advancing, I feel an awe upon my mind which 
is not easily described." For some weeks more, such 
thoughts as these fermented in the heads of the patri- 
ots ; and on the seventh of June Richard Henry Lee, 
in the name and with the authority of Virginia, called 
upon Congress to resolve in favour of declaring the 
thirteen colonies independent. After several days of de- 
bate it was arranged that an interval should be allowed 
for the purpose of enabling the delegates of the central 
provinces to consult their constituents ; but that, to pre- 
vent loss of time, a small committee should be charged 
with the duty of preparing a Declaration in harmony with 
the proposed resolution. And then Congress dropped the 
subject for a while, and reverted to the endless routine 
of administration, which was always going forward be- 
hind the scenes of that great drama ; — providing mus- 
kets for one battalion, and stopping the price of uniforms 
out of the pay of another ; fixing the salary of the Sec- 
retary of the Board of War and Ordnance at a hundred 
and sixty pounds a year ; voting John Bruce the sum of 
thirteen dollars as the balance of his bill for cartridge- 
boxes, and twelve dollars to Margaret Thomas for nurs- 
ing two soldiers in the small-pox.^ 

The Committee was composed of Roger Sherman and 
Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, 
and Thomas Jefferson. Congress chose them by ballot ; 

^Journals of Congress for June 1776. 


and most votes were cast for Jefferson. He was 
a young man, and an unobtrusive legislator; but an 
independent fortune had given him leisure for self- 
culture, and he had not wasted his privilege. Congress 
was a practical assembly, and selected men for posts 
which they were qualified to hold. They appointed 
Washington Commander-in-Chief because he could 
fight ; they sent Franklin to Paris because he had culti- 
vated the art of turning great people round his finger ; 
and they entrusted the Declaration of Independence 
to Jefferson because, both in style and substance, his 
writings betokened the lawyer, the statesman, and the 
student.^ The spirit which he brought to the task is 
displayed in a private letter, dated six months before 
he received a commission to be the exponent of his 
country's wrongs. "There is not," he said, **in the 
British empire a man who more cordially loves a union 
with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that 
made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a con- 
nection on such terms as the British Parliament pro- 
pose ; and in this I think I speak the sentiments of 
America."^ That was no vain boast, as a century 
and a quarter of Fourths of July have already shown. 
Jefferson wrote off the Declaration, without looking 
inside a book or a pamphlet. So representative an 
American as Franklin found nothing to add or to ex- 
punge; and the other members of the committee were 
not less speedily and entirely satisfied. Two or three 
verbal corrections were suggested ; and then Jefferson 
made a fair copy in his own hand, which was laid before 
Congress on the twenty-eighth of June. 

^ " The Sub-Committee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the 
draught. I said, 'I will not.' 'You should do it.' *0h no.' *"Why 
not ? ' * Reasons enough.' * What can be your reasons ? ' * Reason 
first, — You are a Virginian ; and a Virginian ought to appear at the head 
of this business. Reason second, — I am obnoxious and unpopular ; you 
are very much otherwise. Reason third, — You can write ten times Ijetter 
than I can.' " John Adams to Colonel Timothy Pickering; August 6, 1822. 

2 Thomas Jefferson to John Randolph ; Philadelphia, November 39, 



The discussion of the Virginian resolution was re- 
sumed on the first of July. The names of the speakers 
are known, and the sides which they took, and, (in a 
few cases,) the impression which they produced upon 
their audience. There our information stops. In those 
days, (said John Adams,) there were no stenographers ; 
speeches were never printed ; and all that was not 
handed down orally, like the harangues of Indian ora- 
tors, was lost in air.^ The Chevalier Botta, an historian 
of the American war, constructed imaginary declama- 
tions in choice Italian, and put them into the mouths of 
the statesmen at Philadelphia. A lifeHke picture of 
Congress, however, must not be sought in the pages 
of a Piedmontese who, when recording debates in the 
Parliament at Westminster, made English public men 
address each other as Honourable Senators and Dear 
Fellow-citizens, instead of the Worthy Alderman and 
the Noble Lord in the Red Ribbon. Nor was the text 
of speeches made by the Revolutionary leaders to be 
found among the papers which they left behind them ; 
for their colleagues in the State House of Philadelphia, 
during the summer of 1776, were in no mood to listen to 
the eloquence of manuscript. Dr. Witherspoon of New 
Jersey, who had preached in a Scotch pulpit, was said 
never to have addressed Congress without committing 
his observations to memory ; but the most telHng sen- 
tence which he uttered on this historical occasion could 
not have taken very long to compose. In his judge- 
ment, (he said,) the country was not only ripe for Inde- 
pendence, but was in danger of becoming rotten for 
want of it. That went to the root of the matter. It 
was in vain that the friends of the British connection 
exerted themselves to the utmost against a foregone 
conclusion. Dickinson fired a parting salvo in defence 

1 John Adams to Henry Niles ; Quincy, January 14, 1 81 8. In a letter 
to Thomas McKean, in 1815, Adams says: "The debates and delibera- 
tions of Congress, from 1774 to 1783, were all in secret, and are now lost 
for ever. Mr. Dickinson printed a speech, which he said he made in 
Congress against the Declaration of Independence ; but it appeared to 
me very different from that which you and I heard." 


of his own position, which had always been illogical, 
and had now become untenable ; but that position was 
stormed and carried by the irresistible onset of John 
Adams. Not a word of his speech had been considered 
beforehand ; not a word has reached posterity ; but 
every person there present pronounced it to be above 
criticism, and beyond praise. According to Jefferson, 
his deep conceptions and nervous style, (and, it may 
safely be added, the faith that was in him,) gave him 
a power of thought and phrase which moved his hearers 
out of themselves. A Congressman from the central 
colonies, not specially given to classical allusions, ex- 
claimed that Adams had stood forth as the Atlas of 
Independence ; and the Virginian delegates paid him 
the unique tribute of admitting that nothing better had 
ever been heard at Williamsburg. The expression of 
views and convictions, which had so long been rolling 
up and down in his mind, seemed to Adams himself a 
small matter. In a private letter, written that evening, 
he described the debate as time misspent; because 
nothing was said but what had been repeated, and 
hackneyed, in that room a hundred times over for six 
months past.^ 

The Resolution was carried, with the adherence of 
only nine among the thirteen colonies ; and it was 
understood that a final and decisive vote would be taken 
on the morrow. But the season for debate came sud- 
denly to a close. That very afternoon, while Dickin- 
son was still speaking, a hundred and thirty-seven sail 
were counted in the channel north of Sandy Hook, 
within three leagues of New York ; and heavy firing 
of cannon was heard at four o'clock on the next morn- 
ing.2 Before the sitting of the first July came to an 
end, a despatch from General Washington had been 
read aloud at the table, reporting that the English ships 
were dropping in by threes and fours ; that an attack 
was imminent ; and that, with the slender forces at his 

^ John Adams to Samuel Chase; Philadelphia, July I, 1776. 

* John Cortenhoven to the President of Congress. American Archives* 


command, it would require all his exertions to prevent 
the ruin and destruction which appeared to be impend- 
ing. It was the sort of argument which turns votes 
wholesale wherever Anglo-Saxons are concerned. South 
Carolina came round at once; — for the sake of una- 
nimity, as the delegates alleged ; but in reality because 
the fighting blood in their veins neutralised the effect 
of all the Quaker claret which they had imbibed since 
Congress met in the fall of the preceding year. Dela- 
ware acceded to the Resolution ; and enough Pennsyl- 
vanians stayed away to enable the suffrage of their 
colony to be cast on the same side. New York was 
still in the throes of constitution-making, and her repre- 
sentatives, who had not yet received an . authoritative 
mandate, sate apart while the vote was being taken ; 
but it had been ascertained that all of them, except one, 
were personally in favour of Independence. Congress 
affirmed, — and none of the thirteen provinces dissented, 
— that the united colonies were, and of right ought to 
be, free and independent States ; that they were ab- 
solved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and 
that the political connection between them and Great 
Britain was dissolved. *' Thus," said Adams, " was de- 
cided the greatest question which ever was debated in 
America ; and a greater, perhaps, never was, nor will 
be, decided among men. The Second day of July, 1776, 
will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the 
great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemo- 
rated as the day of deliverance by acts of devotion to 
God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp 
and parade, with guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations 
from one end of this continent to the other, from this 
time forward for evermore." ^ 

It was a veracious prophecy, although the date 
named was wrong by eight and forty hours; for the 
Declaration of Independence had not yet been sub- 
mitted to Congress for revisal, correction, and approval. 
So much still remained to do ; and that the pressure of 

^ John Adams to Mrs. Adams ; Philadelphia, July 3, 1776. 


necessity required it to be done quickly was well both 
for the merits of the composition, and the feelings of 
the author. Even as it was, Jefferson suffered, as man 
must ever suffer, from the excision of some among his 
most glowing periods. Franklin, who sate next him, 
and perceived that he "was not insensible to these 
mutilations," comforted him by a homely apologue, in 
queer disproportion to the magnitude of the occasion.^ 
But Congress used a sparing hand ; and the alterations 
made were all in the direction' of the accuracy, the con- 
ciseness, and the discretion on which the literary excel- 
lence of a State-paper depends. In the original draft 
George the Third had been taken to task for withdraw- 
ing his governors, and thereby depriving the colonists 
of his favour and protection. The list of charges 
against that monarch was sufficiently voluminous with- 
out the insertion of any such preposterous imputation ; 
for the royal governors had withdrawn themselves to the 
shelter of the nearest British frigate, without orders from 
Whitehall, and not a moment before it was necessary. 
Indeed, the only one of them still resident at the capital 
of his province was the governor of New Jersey, whose 
late subjects had got him safe under lock and key. 

Jefferson, again, had written, and somewhat over- 
written, a denunciation of the King for having refused 
his sanction to the successive endeavours which the 
Virginian assembly had made, in all honesty, to sup- 
press the importation of negroes. The accusation in 
itself was just ; since George the Third had exerted his 
Veto in defence of the slave-trade with unusual zest, 
and with strong resentment against the authors of the 
proposal which he thought fit to negative. But Jeffer- 
son's treatment of this burning question was, (to use his 

1 " I have made it a rule," (Franklin told his younger colleague,) ** to 
avoid becoming the draftsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body. 
I took my lesson from an incident which I will relate to you." And then 
he told, with a perfection of native humour, his tale of the hatter who 
composed an inscription for his shop-front, and invited his friends and 
neighbours to criticise the wording of it. The story is given in full by 
Jared Sparks, in the ninth chapter of his Life of Franklin. 

VOL. 11. M 


own imposing words,) ** disapproved by some Southern 
gentlemen, whose reflections were not yet matured to 
the full abhorrence of that traffic." And some Northern 
gentlemen rightly apprehended that the world outside 
the United States, and very probably their own descend- 
ants likewise, would fail to distinguish between the 
guilt of keeping, and the guilt of importing, slaves. 
Their American sense of humour was already sufficiently 
developed for them to perceive that allusions to negroes 
should be sparingly introduced into a document which 
proclaimed it a self-evident truth that men were created 
equal, and endowed by their Creator with an inalienable 
right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

The most important change was the conversion of 
the paragraph, addressed to the people of Great Britain, 
from a bitter impeachment to a friendly and pathetic 
remonstrance. That change was highly politic in view 
of passing events ; and it saved future generations from 
a situation which would sometimes have been ludicrous, 
and at others most embarrassing. George the Third has 
long passed away ; although America annually denies 
him the benefit of the kindly Latin proverb which bids us 
be silent about the dead, where we cannot praise them. 
But the British people is as much alive as ever; and 
it is a good thing that every township between the 
Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans does not listen once a 
summer to Jefferson's thrilling sentences about the last 
stab that had been given to agonizing affection, and 
the duty of forgetting the love which the colonists 
formerly entertained towards their unfeeling brethren 
in England. 

Under the amending touch of Congress the Declara- 
tion of Independence assumed, and kept, the shape of 
an indictment against the King. The framers of that 
indictment did not act in ignorance. Eager readers of 
history, with an especial fondness for its dry and legal 
aspects, they had all been nurtured on the doctrine that 
the King could do no wrong, and that, when an account 
had to be exacted, his ministers were answerable. But 


they were not inditing a treatise on the theory of the 
British Constitution. They were contending for their 
lives and fortunes against a practical abuse of that 
Constitution which those English writers, who more 
than others are careful to weigh their words, have de- 
nounced with the most telling vehemence. Mr. Lecky, 
stating the case shortly but comprehensively, relates 
how George the Third habitually declined to call into 
his counsels any statesman resolute and conscientious 
enough to insist that the policy of the country should 
be directed by its responsible ministers, instead of being 
dictated by an irresponsible sovereign. At a notable 
crisis, which occurred later on in this very war, the 
King refused to dismiss North, Wedderburn, and Sand- 
wich, and to place the administration in the hands of 
Chatham and Rockingham. That refusal is declared 
by Mr. Lecky, — a judge who charges with rare im- 
partiality, and as a rule gives light sentences, — to be as 
criminal as any of the acts which led Charles the First 
to the scaffold. The author of that '' Short History of 
the English People" which, to their advantage, the 
English people have found time to read, devotes an 
uncomplimentary page to the Government that held 
office continuously for fourteen years after the retire- 
ment of Chatham in 1768. Mr. Green there says that 
the influence of the King was predominant in the Cabi- 
net from the first, and was supreme in the later and 
more disastrous days when North had gone to the 
Treasury. ** George was in fact sole Minister during 
the eight years that followed ; and the shame of the 
darkest hour of English history lies wholly at his door." 
The King was his own prime minister, and as auto- 
cratic a prime minister as Whitehall had ever seen. 
To prove and illustrate that position is an act of super- 
fluity. It would be pedantry to multiply authorities. 
There are none on the other side. If learned men, 
writing securely in their libraries a century after date, 
could not restrain the expression of their righteous 
indignation, is it a matter for wonder that the Ameri- 

M 2 


can colonists, between two great campaigns, with the 
King's sword at their throats, and his German merce- 
naries and Indian allies almost at the threshold of their 
homes, should have spurned the conventionalities of the 
law-books, and arraigned the monarch instead of casting 
blame upon the nation ? Save and except for the 
system of personal government, which George the Third 
had laboriously built up ever since 1760, Americans and 
Englishmen would not have been slaughtering each 
other in 1776. The King's policy caused the war; the 
King kept it going, long after everybody except him- 
self was weary of it; and in 1782 that war was termi- 
nated, against his will, by nothing except a peremptory 
injunction from the English people, who, if they had 
been properly represented in Parliament, would have 
brought it to an end long before. 

The stock charge against the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, — repeated in a hundred shapes ever since it 
appeared in print, — has been that it lacked originality, 
and that its author was a plagiarist. It was imitated, 
(so we are informed,) from the State-papers of the Long 
Parliament; it owed much to Locke, and much to 
Milton, and more still to Rousseau ; and some of the 
ideas were taken without acknowledgement from one of 
Mrs. Aphra Behn's indecorous comedies.^ More recent 
sources, on which Jefferson had largely drawn, were 
detected in a Charge deUvered to the Grand Jury of 
Charleston ; in the Virginian Declaration of Rights ; 
and in a mythical document, said to have been issued 
as early as May 1775 by the citizens of Mecklenburg 
County in North Carolina. John Adams, great at great 
moments, but with a mind too active and uneasy for the 
prolonged leisure of his later days, six and forty years 

^ Thi Widow Ranter^ or The History of Bacon in Virginia^ which 
Dryden honoured with a prologue, contains a very full-flavoured descrip- 
tion of the horrors of Indian warfare. As if a Virginian of 1776, who had 
lived through a real Cherokee war, could not find words to protest against 
the treatment which his country-people were likely to endure from hired 
savages without having to look in a foolish play written in London more 
than a century before ! 


afterwards explained to a correspondent that there was 
nothing new in Jefferson's paper.^ Jefferson lived to see 
the letter of his old colleague, and his remarks on it were 
as sensible as they were good-tempered and dignified. 
" I did not," he said, ** consider it as any part of my 
charge to invent new ideas, and to offer no sentiment 
which had ever been expressed before. Had Mr. Adams 
been so restrained, Congress would have lost the benefit 
of his bold and impressive advocations of the rights of 
Revolution. For no man's fervid addresses, more than 
his, encouraged and supported us through the difificulties 
which, like the ceaseless action of gravity, weighed on 
us by night and by day. Yet, on the same ground, we 
may ask which of his elevated thoughts was new, or 
can be affirmed never before to have entered the con- 
ceptions of man ? " 

An American author has argued powerfully and truly 
that, for such a paper as Jefferson was commissioned 
to write, the one quality which it could not properly 
have possessed would have been originality. Was he 
to regard himself as a literary essayist, set to produce 
a sort of prize dissertation on history and politics with 
a particular application to Anglo-American affairs } 
Was he not rather the mouth-piece of a people who 
had deliberately exposed themselves to perils, the 
gravity of which they all had measured, under the 
influence of motives by which they one and all were 
swayed .'* ^ The wiser world has recognised that there 

^ " As you justly observe, there is not an idea in it but what had been 
hackneyed in Congress for two years before. The substance is contained 
in the Declaration of Rights and the violation of those Rights, in the 
Journals of Congress in 1774. Indeed, the essence of it is in a pamphlet, 
voted and printed by the town of Boston before the first Congress met, 
composed by James Otis, as I suppose, in one of his lucid intervals, and 
penned and polished by Samuel Adams." John Adams to Timothy 
Pickering ; August 6, 1822. Jefferson's observations on this letter were 
addressed to James Madison in August 1823. 

2 Tyler's Literary History ; chapter xxxiii., section 6. Professor 
Tyler disposes of the allegation of plagiarising from the early champions 
of English liberty in a passage which Fox and Macaulay would have liked 
well to read. ** In the development of political life in England and 
America there had already been created a vast literature of constitutional 


are certain productions which stand in a class apart 
To that class belong Elizabeth's speech at Tilbury, and 
the Declaration of William of Orange, and President 
Lincoln's discourse in the Cemetery at Gettysburg. 
The excellence of such pieces is to be judged, not by 
the ordinary rules of criticism, but by the character and 
extent of the response they evoked from the nation to 
which they were addressed. An English member of 
Parliament, in the following autumn session, said that 
Jefferson's style was full of faults, and possessed no 
merit except that of captivating the people. He was 
told in answer by John Wilkes that he had paid the 
American a high compliment; for the people would 
have to decide the controversy, and, if they were cap- 
tivated, the end had been attained.^ The people, (said 
Samuel Adams,) seemed to recognise the Resolution of 
Congress as if it were a decree promulgated from heaven. 
The Declaration of Independence went straight to their 
hearts, because they found in it their own conceptions, 
put into words which few or none of them were capable 
of writing. Jefferson had " poured the soul of the Con- 
tinent " into his manifesto ; and therefore, (as a Con- 
gressman, who had signed it, joyfully exclaimed,) "it 
produced a glorious effect and made the colonies all 

To be read aloud is the severest test of a literary 
composition ; and the least favourable critic of the 
Declaration of Independence will not assert that it 
has been insufficiently subjected to that ordeal. The 
public listened to it for the first time on the eighth 
of July, 1776, when it was delivered, slowly and very 
impressively, in the State-house yard, from a platform 
which in peaceful times had been erected for the purpose 

progress, — a literature common to both portions of the English race, — 
pervaded by its own stately traditions, and reverberating certain great 
phrases which formed, as one may say, almost the vernacular of English 
justice, and of English aspiration for a free, manly, and orderly political 
life. In this vernacular the Declaration of Independence was written." 

^ Parliamentary History. Debate on the Address of October 31, 


of observing the planet Venus.^ The Pennsylvanian 
militia paraded on the Common, and fired away an 
amount of powder most discomposing to members of the 
Secret Committee charged with importing ammunition, 
and collecting sulphur and saltpetre. The welkin, (we 
are told in good old English,) was rent with cheers. 
The bells were rung, all day and all night, by relays of 
the best chimers in the city. To these joyous accom- 
paniments an election of members for Philadelphia, in 
the new State Assembly, went briskly forward; and 
Benjamin Franklin was returned at the head of a list of 
sturdy patriots, containing a note-worthy infusion of 
German names. The royal coat of arms was taken 
down from the Court House, and burned amidst the 
acclamations of a throng of spectators. Scenes of this 
nature were successively renewed in every colony, or 
rather, (for that word was now out of use,) in every 
State,^ as the slow posts came travelling in with the 
intelligence of what had passed in Philadelphia. 
Throughout Massachusetts the Declaration was read 
in all the churches, and entered at full length in the 
records of the towns. In the sea-ports of Rhode Island 
the news was greeted by loud huzzas for " Free Trade 
with all the world," from crowds of hardy mariners who 
for some years back had taken very good care that 
Rhode Island, in any case, should enjoy the blessings of 

^ " One unseen auditor there was who has left us an account of that 
day. Deborah Norris, then a girl of fifteen, had climbed her garden wall 
to catch a glimpse of what was going on. The reader was hidden from 
her by the side of the Observatory; but she heard distinctly from her high 
perch every word he uttered, and was awed into a childish terror as the 
grave voice repeated slowly those memorable words, the full significance 
of which she was too young to understand." Philadelphia ; The Place 
and People ; chapter xii. 

2 In November 1775 Congress considered the Instructions to New 
Hampshire. " By this time," wrote John Adams, " I mortally hated the 
words Provinces^ Colonies, and Mother- Country, and strove to get them 
out of the Report. The last was indeed left out ; but the other two were 
retained even by this Committee, who were as high Americans as any in 
the House." The two first terms have long been obsolete in America ; 
but there are pleasant symptoms of the third expression once more coming 
into fashion. 


free trade between ten at night, and three in the morning. 
There were bonfires in one city, and illuminations, 
with rockets and crackers, in another; every locality 
contributing some additional suggestion towards the 
programme of jubilation, which everywhere, and ever 
since, has been observed with all the sanctity of a ritual. 
The Assembly of South Carolina, which was among the 
latest converts to Independence, accepted the procla- 
mation of it "with unspeakable pleasure." The ragged 
fever-stricken garrisons, who were guarding the northern 
passes along the Hudson river and the line of lakes, 
assembled to shout over the tidings that they now had 
a country to sicken and to die for. At New York the 
Declaration was read at the head of the brigades in what 
was still a well-nourished and self-confident army. The 
same evening a mob of soldiers, their blood curdled by 
the recitation of that portentous catalogue of George 
the Third's iniquities, pulled down his equestrian effigy 
on Bowling Green. Horse and man were soon in the 
melting pots, and re-appeared as bullets of the same 
material, (so a city humourist declared,) as the brains 
of those rulers who to gain a pepper-corn had lost an 
empire.^ Washington rebuked the riot in a General 
Order ; but, as a work of art, the statue was beyond 
recovery. The lead had already been distributed 
among a thousand cartouch-boxes ; and portions of it 
must to this day be embedded in the heart of forest 
trees which shade the old battle-fields of Long Island 
and the Jerseys. 

And so the United States of America were started on 
their career duly equipped with 2i journ^e ; — a national 
possession of the sort which France has inherited in too 
great abundance, and England only in the somewhat 
questionable shape of the Fifth November.^ There have 

^ The statue yielded 42,500 bullets. Life of Major General John 
Paterson, by his great-grandson Thomas Egleston, LL.D. 

2 It is characteristic of the indifference of our forefathers to historical 
anniversaries that the most important reason for keeping the Fifth of 
November, — the landing of William of Orange, — was soon as good as 
forgotten. We ran a near chance of a journee on the Tenth of April, 


been very famous Fourths of July. One of them, which 
promised to be gloomy, was brightened by the victory 
of Gettysburg and the capture of Vicksburg. Another 
was signalised by the destruction of the Spanish fleet 
outside the harbour at Santiago. But there is one anni- 
versary of the Declaration of Independence the interest 
of which can never be surpassed. John Adams lived 
to a great age. He heard, or read, forty-five orations 
on the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, and he 
might have been present at many more; but, when 
turned of eighty, he ceased to take pleasure in " young 
gentlemen of genius describing scenes they never saw, 
and descanting on feelings they never felt, and which 
great pains had been taken that they should never 
feel." ^ His wife died old, but long before him ; and 
he waited very quietly, and not unhappily, till the time 
came to rejoin her.^ A cheerful account of his closing 
years has been left by his grandson, — the taciturn, 
much-enduring, diplomatist whose presence in London 
from 1 86 1 to 1865 did no little to avert a desolating 
war between England and America. We are told how 
the ex- President lived on till his sight almost failed, tak- 
ing his daily ride ; and sitting at home, with his arms 
folded over the head of his cane, straight upright in an 
old colonial arm-chair, and in the old colonial attitude. 
He never tired of listening to the latest and most ad- 
mired works of contemporary literature, — the Waverley 
novels, the sea-stories of Fenimore Cooper, and the 

1848 ; but the good fortune of England prevailed ; and we have secured 
the most valuable among those constitutional reforms, to obtain which the 
Chartists rose, without being under an obligation to observe the day. 

1 John Adams to Dr. Morse ; Quincy, January 5, 181 6. 

2 The Ambassador speaks thus of the letters which, in 1 763 and sub- 
sequent years, passed between his grandfather and grandmother. " With 
what a mixture of feelings do I look over these old papers ! They con- 
tain the secret history of the lives of a single couple ; joy and sunshine, 
grief and clouds, sorrow and storms. The vicissitudes are rapid, the inci- 
dents are interesting. Happy are those who pass through this valley with 
so much innocence ! " The quotation is from a Life of Charles Francis 
Adams, published in 1900 by his son, C. F. Adams, — a veritable master- 
piece among short biographies. 


poetry of Byron. In February 1825 he received a letter 
from his old friend, the Marquis of Lafayette, wishing 
him joy on the election of his son, John Quincy Adams, 
as sixth President of the United States. He was still 
susceptible to the emotions which such events excite in 
a father's breast. *' Never," he wrote, " did I feel so 
much solemnity as upon this occasion. The multitude 
of my thoughts, and the intensity of my feelings, are 
too much for a mind like mine, in its ninetieth year." 

One other founder of the Republic still breathed 
American air. Twenty-five years had elapsed since 
John Adams was President, and seventeen since Thomas 
Jefferson left the Executive Mansion at Washington 
after a second term of office. The Fourth of July, 
Eighteen Hundred and Twenty-six, was the Jubilee of 
Independence ; and the eyes of all spontaneously turned 
to the two veterans, — so long divided by political differ- 
ences, more recent indeed than the Revolution, but 
already of ancient date. It was hoped that they might 
meet once again, to shake hands over their life's work in 
the presence of an immense assemblage ; some of whom 
might speak of it in the twentieth century as the most 
memorable sight an American ever witnessed. But 
they both were very feeble, and the hope was aban- 
doned. A few days before the festival, Adams was 
invited to suggest a toast which his neighbours might 
honour at their banquet with the knowledge that it 
came from him. ** I will give you," said he, " * Inde- 
pendence for ever ! ' " He was asked if he would add 
anything to it; and he replied, ** Not a word." The 
great day arrived, and the old statesmen, for all that 
they were absent, were not forgotten. " From one end 
of the country to the other, wherever Americans were 
gathered together, the names of Adams and Jefferson 
were coupled in accents of gratitude and praise. Party 
passions were completely drowned in the flood of na- 
tional feeling which overspread the land." ^ All day 
long Adams was sinking rapidly, and without pain 

1 Life of John Adams ; chapter xi. 


His last audible remark is said to have been : " Thomas 
Jefferson still survives." But such was not the case. 
Jefferson died at noon on that Fourth of July, and 
Adams shortly before sunset. There are few more 
striking circumstances, and no more remarkable coinci- 
dences, in history. 



Although America had now defined her attitude in 
the face of England and of Europe, she required some- 
thing beside State-papers, however resolutely worded, in 
order to stem the tide of war which was surging in upon 
her confines. She possessed a victorious army and a 
popular general ; but they had still to prove what they 
were respectively worth under an ordeal far more ar- 
duous than that by which they had hitherto been tested. 
On the twentieth of March, 1776, Washington made his 
entry into Boston ; and the people, whom he had res- 
cued, gave him the very choicest entertainment which 
their town afforded. He attended the Thursday Lec- 
ture, the social event of a New England week ; and he 
there listened to a prophecy, truer than most, that the 
city was thenceforward a tabernacle that should never 
be taken down, of which not one of the stakes should 
ever be removed, nor one of the cords be broken. He 
was gratefully welcomed by the Selectmen of Boston, 
and by the two branches of the Massachusetts Legis- 
lature. Charles Lee, then commanding in Virginia, 
wrote him a letter of congratulation. That letter con- 
tained four sentences about the grievances of General 
Lee for every one which related to the glories of Gen- 
eral Washington ; but it freely testified to the esteem 
felt by friends and neighbours for the great soldier 
whom Virginians loved to call their " countryman " in 
the limited sense in which provincial patriots then em- 
ployed the term.^ The Congress at Philadelphia, on 

^ " Go on, my dear General ; crown yourself with glory, and establish 
the liberties and lustre of your country on a foundation more permanent 



the motion of John Adams, voted thanks to their army 
and its leader ; and Washington acknowledged the com- 
pliment on behalf of his troops. They were, (he said,) 
at the first a band of undisciplined husbandmen ; but it 
was, under God, to their bravery, and attention to their 
duty, that success had been due. Congress, moreover, 
struck a gold medal inscribed with some brave Latin 
mottoes. It bore on one face a fleet, sailing out of a 
harbour beneath the cannon of a besieging force ; and 
on the other a head of Washington, whose features lent 
themselves readily to artistic treatment. They did well 
to take some pains over the design ; for that medal was 
the only coin which their general consented to receive 
from them in payment of his services. 

The confidence which Washington inspired among 
his fellow-citizens contributed more than any other cir- 
cumstance to carry America safe and triumphant 
through all her difficulties ; but, for the present, the 
somewhat premature splendour of his reputation was 
not without its dangers. Congressmen could not bring 
themselves to believe that any tasks whatsoever were 
above his capacity ; and, at the same time, they had not 
learned to resist the temptation of indicating to him, 
peremptorily and persistently, what those tasks should 
be. Even when the Committees at Philadelphia re- 
frained from direct interference, the unbounded admira- 
tion with which the general was regarded proved a 
source of embarrassment to himself, and of peril to his 
cause. Public opinion relied upon the liberator of 
Boston to surrender no American town, and yield no 

than the Capitol Rock. My situation is just as I expected. I am afraid 
I shall make a shabby figure, without any real demerits of my own. I 
am like a dog in a dancing-school. I know not where to turn myself, 
where to fix myself. The circumstances of the country intersected by 
navigable rivers, the uncertainty of the enemy's designs, who can fly in an 
instant to any spot they choose with their canvas wings, throw me, and 
would throw Julius Caesar, into this inevitable dilemma. I may possibly 
be in the North when, as Richard says, I should serve my sovereign 
in the West." It was a private letter ; but, unfortunately for Washing- 
ton, Lee had only one style for his private letters and his official de- 


square mile of American territory ; and during the com- 
ing months the pressure of that opinion exercised a bane- 
ful, and very nearly a fatal, influence over Washington's 
strategy. It was a weakness of which he was cured be- 
fore the year ended ; and his countrymen, too, received 
a lesson which they never forgot From that time for- 
ward they allowed him his own way, — all the more be- 
cause it became evident that his own way was the one 
which he meant to take. During the remainder of the 
war the men, money, and provisions supplied to Wash- 
ington by Congress often, indeed, fell far short of his 
requirements; but in the military disposal of the re- 
sources at his command he was as unfettered as any 
royal captain of the old world at the head of his own 

There had been a moment, earlier in the Revolution, 
— and, during the evil days now close at hand, there 
was another such moment, — when some faint-hearted 
colonists turned their glance in search of a leader out- 
side their own borders. It was suggested that America, 
after the well-known example of England, should apply 
for a monarch to Central Germany. Her security would 
be assured if the hero of Rossbach and Zorndorf would 
extend to her the protection of his sword and sceptre. 
The notion, as any one who knew Frederic the Great 
would have foreseen, struck him as exquisitely comic. 
Whatever turn affairs might take, (such was his com- 
ment on the proposal,) he should refuse any offer of 
Transatlantic sovereignty, and cede, without hesitation, 
all his rights to the King of England.^ Nothing more 
was heard of that fantastic scheme; but on the first 
week of December, 1776, — when America was in dire 
straits, — Silas Deane sent to the Committee of Secret 
Correspondence at Philadelphia a despatch of which 
one paragraph, for intelligible reasons, was not allowed 
to be seen in print until the writer, and the recipients, 
of the letter had long been in their graves. For in that 

1 Le Comte de Maltzan au roi Frederic, 10 Fevrier 1775; Le Roi 
Frederic au Comte de Maltzan, 21 Fevrier 1775. 


paragraph the envoy at Paris urged his masters at home 
to direct their thoughts towards engaging a great gen- 
eral, of the highest character in Europe, such as Prince 
Ferdinand or Marshal Broglio, to take command of the 
colonial armies.^ 

That was how some men felt when the war was first 
impending, and again at a subsequent period, when it 
appeared likely to terminate in a rapid and complete 
disaster for America. But, in the weeks which imme- 
diately followed General Howe's retirement from Boston, 
Washington's compatriots were so far from wanting to 
borrow a marshal from France, or a prince from Ger- 
many, that they would not have exchanged their own 
Virginian for Hannibal or Alexander. There was, how- 
ever, one American who did not over-rate George 
Washington ; and that was George Washington himself. 
He put in no claim to the possession of a heaven-born 
genius for war, — a term which historians have so freely 
applied to certain conquerors the nativity of whose 
military talent might not unfairly be assigned to a very 
different region. '* Who would have thought," (wrote 
an author of the seventeenth century,) "that Spinola, 
soe young and unexpert as he was, should begin his 
prentiship in armes with taking Ostend, and of the 
suddaine become soe great a captaine } Some men 
grow up to be famous generalls before they have scarce 
learnt the dutyes of souldiers; and others that spend 
their whole time in the exercises of military discipline, 
— to whom fights, sieges, batteryes, approches, and 
underminings are as familiar as the wearing of their 
corsletts, — are yet cleane to seeke how to manage the 
highest command of an army."^ To neither of those 
two classes did Washington belong. Of him was true 

^ The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States ; 
Edited under Direction of Congress by Francis Wharton : "Washington, 
Government Printing Office, 1889. The passage mentioned above does 
not appear in the earlier collection of State documents arranged for pub- 
lication by Mr. Sparks, under resolution of Congress of March 27, 181 8. 

'^ History of the War in Ireland, 1641 to 1673, by Richard Bellings, 
Secretary of the Irish Confederation. 


what a famous writer said of a famous warrior, that his 
proficiency in military science was the proficiency which 
a man of vigorous faculties makes in any science to 
which he applies his mind with earnestness and in- 
dustry.^ Before the summer of 1776 Washington had 
seen plenty of hard service ; but he had never con- 
ducted an extensive campaign in the open field. The 
sense which he entertained of his own deficiencies 
stands recorded in a generous letter referring to a 
gallant officer who had given his chief some trouble 
already, and was destined to give him more in the 
future. " General Sullivan," wrote Washington, " does 
not want abilities ; but he has his wants, and he has his 
foibles. His wants are common to us all. He wants 
experience to move upon a large scale ; for the limited 
and contracted knowledge, which any of us have in 
military matters, stands in very little stead." ^ 

During five or six weeks before Washington's arrival 
at New York, the city and district were committed to 
the care of one of his brigadiers who went by the name 
of Lord Stirling. The apparition of a nobleman on 
the rolls of a Republican army is startling enough to 
call for explanation. William Alexander's father had 
been a gentleman of old Scottish family, who, after 
the Jacobite rebellion of 171 5, had taken refuge in 
America ; where he became an important official, a 
leading advocate, and the husband of a rich woman. 
In 1756 the son went to England on public business of 
some moment, and was recognised by society as a colo- 
nist of good position and repute, and a scion of the 
noble house of Stirling.^ Before returning home he put 

1 Macaulay on Frederic the Great. 

2 Washington to the President of Congress ; New York, June 17, 1776. 
^ The following sentence, relating to Stirling, is taken from a London 

newspaper : ** Great respect was shewn, and court paid to him, by the 
Scotch, particularly by Mr. Alexander Wedderburne, Drummonds the 
bankers, Lord Aberdeen, and others of Scotland ; as well as by the late 
Lord Northampton, Charles Townshend, and many more considerable 
people on this side the Tweed ; every one of whom advised him by all 
means to take up the title." 


in a claim to the Earldom, which already was extinct. 
The prize was of a nature to inflame the imagination of 
an American. The first Earl was the poet, the tutor of 
Prince Henry, who helped James the First in his trans- 
lation of the Psalms ; and who would have received the 
profits of the work, if profits there had been, and if the 
whole British people had not stoutly refused to sing 
the Royal version. But that was the least of the favours 
showered upon him by the Crown. He was made 
Secretary of State for Scotland, and a Judge of the 
Court of Session ; and he obtained the privilege of 
issuing a copper coinage. In 1621 James endowed him 
with the whole territory of Nova Scotia, as well as the 
County and the Lordship of Canada ; and the grant 
was accompanied by the duty of recommending gentle- 
men to be created Baronets at a hundred and fifty 
pounds a head. The Charter was confirmed by Charles 
on his accession to the throne ; and in course of time 
Alexander was invested with the titles of Earl of Stir- 
ling, and Viscount Canada. But to him, as to others 
of the great American Proprietors, his concessions and 
monopolies brought little besides vexations and embar- 
rassments; and in 1640 he died bankrupt. 

That was a matter of indifference to the William 
Alexander of 1760, who did not need money, and who 
would willingly have paid the price of a score of Nova 
Scotia baronetcies in order to become the Sixth Earl 
of Stirling. The case was tried. An Edinburgh jury 
found for the claimant, and he was proclaimed as Earl 
of Stirling at the Market Cross ; but the decision was 
over-set by -a Committee of the House of Lords. Alex- 
ander returned to America, which was a country where 
a man was at liberty to call himself anything he pleased, 
except a Bishop ; and thenceforward he was Lord Stir- 
ling, not only to his provincial neighbours, but to the 
Royal generals and administrators, who treated him 
with marked civility. His mother, seeing no reason 
why an heiress should be idle, had set up a thriving 
business. She made herself notable among women by 

Vr>... II. N 


selling thirty pounds worth of goods on the day after 
her son was born ; and, when he reached the proper 
age, she took that son into partnership. The pair lived 
in a community where people who kept a store were 
the equals of people who bought at it ; and Stirling held 
his head high among the best. When he was forty 
years old an English officer, who supplied friends in 
London with New York gossip, opined that Lord 
Stirling, if he played his cards prudently, might rise 
to be Governor of the province. He adhered to the 
Revolution from the very first, and brought strength 
to the cause which he adopted ; for he was very popular 
with his own party, and supremely indifferent to what 
might be said or written about him by his opponents. 
He had his share in the personal abuse which was 
poured forth by the Loyal poets and poetasters in enor- 
mous quantities ; although the entire mass of their 
rhymes made fewer converts among a grave and hard- 
headed people than any five pages of " Common Sense," 
or a single one of the Farmer's Letters. The ablest, 
and perhaps the most ferocious, of these satirists, the 
Reverend Jonathan Odell, has lampooned Stirling as 
an habitual drunkard ; but it must be remembered that 
the same pen denounced Washington as a perjurer and 
a liar, and applied to Jay, — who was a purist among 
statesmen, and in after life a revered magistrate, — the 
epithet of '* Satan's DarHng Son." ^ 

The worst that could be told about Stirling might be 
conveyed by a quotation taken from verses of a very 
different order. When seated at the head of his own 
table he did not love 

1 " Or what if Washington should close his scene, 
Could none succeed him ? Is there not a Greene ? 
Knave after knave as easy we could join 
As new emissions of the paper coin." 

That is a very mild sample of Odell's judgements on his prominent con- 
temporaries. Such strictures, even when proceeding from a Church of 
England clergyman, cannot fairly be received as evidence against char- 
acter. John Jay became the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of 
the United States. 


" a lingering bottle 
Which with the landlord makes too long a stand, 
Leaving all claretless the unmoistened throttle ; 
Especially with politics on hand." 

Politics were always on hand in America from the pass- 
ing of the Stamp Act onwards ; and they were talked 
with jovial emphasis and unanimity around Stirling's 
well-spread board. He was celebrated for his hospital- 
ity in town and camp alike ; and no staff-officer, with a 
message to deliver, ever grudged a long ride if only the 
last stage of it brought him to Stirling's quarters. These 
quarters were all the more attractive to youthful chivalry 
because Lady Stirling, who never left her lord for long, 
was everywhere attended by a bevy of girls as clever 
and engaging as any in America,^ Stirling was a care- 
ful and watchful commander, who prided himself on his 
acquaintance with the technical side of his profession, 
and who, as the war progressed, shook off the martinet, 
and became a practical soldier of considerable value in 
the field. He was in most of Washington's engage- 
ments ; and there was sure to be plenty of tough and 
steady fighting in the quarter towards which Stirling 
and his division had been ordered. He showed a burly 
figure, and a fresh-coloured visage, in the front of battle. 
*' My Lord Stirling," said a Hessian Colonel, "looks 
as much like my Lord Granby as one ^g^ does like 
another ; " and every Englishman, who cares for a good 
portrait by Reynolds, knows how Lord Granby looked. 
Stirling died just at the moment when peace was arranged 
between England and the United States, deeply re- 
gretted by his chief, whose beautiful letter to Lady Stir- 
ling may well stand in history as her husband's epitaph.^ 

1 Lady Stirling was the mother of Lady Mary Watts and Lady Kitty 
Duer. She herself was a sister of Governor Livingston of New Jersey ; 
and his three daughters had a home in their aunt's household. One of 
them married Chief Justice Jay, and in after days gave the law to New 
York drawing-rooms. Indeed, all the five ladies belonged to that first 
dynasty of American fashion which came into power when the war was 
over. Life of Martha Washington, by Anne Hollingworth Wharton, 
New York, 1897 J chapters 7 and 9. 

2 Washington to Lady Stirling ; Newbury, January 20, 1783. 



Within twenty-four hours after Boston became his 
own, Washington began his arrangements for the 
defence of the middle colonies. On the eighteenth of 
March a strong advanced guard was despatched by 
land to Norwich in Connecticut, and thence by water 
to New York. The rest of the army followed, in divi- 
sions ; and on the thirteenth of April the Commander-in- 
Chief himself arrived, and established his headquarters 
within the city. He left General Ward in charge at 
Boston ; — an easy billet, if the old man still had a mind 
for employment. One antique hero, at any rate, was 
now provided for as honourably to himself, and with as 
little disadvantage to the public service, as if he were a 
time-worn British veteran installed in the Governor's 
house at Chelsea Hospital. Far other was the lot which 
awaited Washington, who was at once confronted by the 
necessity for a decision which brought to the test his 
moral qualifications for the supreme direction of a great 
war. The American army in Canada could not be 
saved unless it was speedily and largely strengthened ; 
and Congress begged Washington to reinforce it with- 
out delay. He was asked to denude himself, when he 
had nothing to spare, in order to promote operations 
of which the success, purchased at his expense, would 
redound to the credit of another. Excuses were at 
hand, such as it would not have been difficult to present 
in the form of weighty reasons. The temptation was 
great, and the mental struggle severe ; but that was the 
sort of conflict from which George Washington never 
came off a loser. He detached ten regiments, as good 
as the best he had, and embarked them on their voyage 
up the Hudson under the orders of General Sullivan. 
When the last battalion had sailed northwards, Wash- 
ington was left with the prospect of having the main 
British army at any moment upon his hands, and with 
only six thousand infantry fit for duty. 

These were Continental soldiers; regulars in name, 
although enlisted for a single twelvemonth, and devoid 
of the very slightest intention to remain under arms a 


day longer than the end of December 1776. But the 
pressing dangers ahead of them made it necessary that 
their numbers should be supplemented from any source 
which was immediately available ; and Congress ordered 
out to their assistance a multitude of raw recruits, com- 
pared with whom, whatever their own defects in point 
of discipline might be, they were as the palace-guard at 
Potsdam, or the Musketeers of the French Household. 
Washington spared a fortnight towards the end of May 
for a journey to Philadelphia. He represented to peo- 
ple in authority the fearful risk of entrusting New York, 
the grand magazine of America, — as well as the mouth 
of the Hudson river, which was the military highway 
of the Continent, — to a mere handful of defenders. 
Men of some sort had to be procured ; and none were 
forthcoming unless he was empowered to draw freely 
upon the militia of the neighbouring provinces. It was 
a poor resource at the best. Months before, when it was 
suspected at Boston that Howe, instead of making for 
Halifax, might sail straight for New York, three thousand 
of the Connecticut and New Jersey militia had been called 
in to garrison the city. There were no funds in the Treas- 
ury to pay them ; and they had gone back grumbling to 
their villages, whence it would not be easy on a second 
occasion to induce them, or their neighbours, to stir. The 
personal influence of Washington, as always, quickened 
the resolve of Congress. It was agreed to increase his 
army at New York by thirteen thousand eight hundred 
militiamen, and to form in the vicinity a flying camp, 
(an ominous expression,) of ten thousand more. 

Late in August, on the eve of his first collision with 
the enemy, Washington had collected a very consider- 
able gathering of fighting men ; or rather of men who 
came out for the purpose of fighting if a battle was not 
put off too long to suit their convenience. Armed, 
half-armed, and unarmed ; young and old ; loyal and 
disaffected ; ^ engaged to serve for five more months, for 

^ The militia of some counties laid hands on the local Tories, and 
brought them along to be employed as fatigue-men, on the plea that they 
were less dangerous in camp than at home. 


six weeks, for four weeks, or for as long as they felt 
inclined ; — the American levies of all sorts and descrip- 
tions were reckoned at something between twenty and 
twenty-five thousand. Three thousand of these were 
on detached service ; and five thousand, (the most con- 
stant quantity under any heading in the official returns,) 
were reported as sick. It was probably the largest 
army that Washington ever commanded ; and it cer- 
tainly was the worst, from causes which reflected little 
discredit on him or on his compatriots. Indeed, the 
contrast between the troops who were mustered at New 
York in August 1776, and the troops who were dis- 
banded at New York in December 1783, was in a high 
degree honourable both to the leader and to the fol- 
lowers. They never wearied out his patience ; and he 
at length obtained from them, after more than one 
disappointment, obedience and devotion in the fullest 
measure. There have seldom been better soldiers, of 
every arm and in every rank, than those Americans 
who, after the war was over, divested themselves of 
their ragged uniforms, and became civilians at the first 
moment when their country had no longer need of them 
as professional warriors.^ 

It is difficult to pronounce in general terms upon the 
value of the American militia during the War of Inde- 
pendence. Some of their feats, if we take into con- 
sideration the quality of their opponents, have seldom 
been surpassed except in legendary warfare; but at 
other times they fought poorly, and proved themselves 
hopelessly unequal to the demands of a long and trying 
campaign. New England farmers, aided by backwoods- 

1 " You know the steps by which Washington succeeded in forming an 
army. At first, men engaged for a single campaign, mixed with militia 
and volunteers ; then paid soldiers, their mutiny, the new regulations, 
and at length the military constitution unanimously accepted by the 
United States. The excellent condition of the Continental troops, as we 
saw them at the review of King's P'erry, before our departure for France, 
will remain in our eyes as not the least among the triumphs of the hero 
of America." This is a passage from a letter written by General Mathieu 
Dumas, and published after he had served many years, and with great dis- 
tinction, in Napoleon's Grand Army. 


men of the Pennsylvanian border, captured at Saratoga 
a splendid army which had advanced beyond its depth 
into an ocean of primaeval forest. In October 1780 a 
similar victory, on a smaller scale, was achieved at 
King's Mountain in North Carolina by bear-hunters 
and wild Indian fighters from the regions which after- 
wards were known as Kentucky and Tennessee. It 
was an occasion when the North Carolina militia per- 
formed their share of the work ; and yet that very 
militia could not be trusted to keep their place in line 
when it came to a ranged battle on an open ground.^ 
American minute-men did well, and sometimes did 
wonders; but they required two conditions in order to 
show themselves to advantage. It was essential that 
the circumstances should be favourable to their method 
of fighting, and that they should have begun with a 
success. Both those conditions prevailed during the 
earlier phases of the Revolutionary War. Lexington 
had put the colonists in heart; Bunker's Hill did any- 
thing rather than discourage them ; and, after those two 
affairs were over, they had but to sit quiet behind solid 
earthworks, eating varied and ample rations, and specu- 
lating on the date when the British inside Boston would 
be reduced to eat horses. Lafayette, after long experi- 
ence, reported to the French Ministry that American 
regulars had as much courage and true discipline as 
their adversaries, and were more hardy and patient 
than any European troops with whom he was acquainted; 
but that their militia, on the other hand, were only armed 
peasants, who had sometimes fought, but who would 
be most usefully employed in the works of a siege.^ 
Their first campaign had been a long siege, and little 

1 Nathanael Greene, who always asked and got from his soldiers the 
utmost of which he thought them capable, promised these Carolinians at 
Guildford Court House that, if they would stand long enough to fire two 
volleys, he would engage that his Continental troops should do the rest. 
But, as soon as Lord Cornwallis sent his people forward, the militia broke 
and ran, and never stopped retreating until, (to use the words of their 
disgusted General,) they had gone home to kiss their wives and sweethearts. 

2 Letter of 1781 from Lafayette to the Count de Vergennes. 


else ; but they were now to have a taste of all the opera- 
tions, incidents, and emergencies of active warfare. 
The host which had been assembled to oppose the inva- 
sion of the central colonies had many characteristics of 
a tribe in arms. " A number of aged gentlemen, of the 
first society in the town of Waterbury, embodied them- 
selves, and nominated their officers. When they were 
ordered to New York, this company was the first that 
reached the place of rendezvous. They were twenty- 
four in number; and their united ages reached one 
thousand. They are all married men, and left behind 
a hundred and fifty-nine children and grandchildren." 
That account came from Connecticut; and at another 
town, nearer to the field of action, the announcement of 
National Independence evoked an equally remarkable 
ebullition of martial ardour. An effigy of George the 
Third, with a crown of feathers like that of an Indian 
chief, was solemnly hanged and burned ; and then the 
older citizens of the locaHty, ** to the age of seventy and 
upwards, formed themselves into a company, determined 
at the risk of their lives to defend the free and indepen- 
dent States. May such a shining example stimulate 
every father in America to follow their aged brethren 
here ! " It would have been well for General Washing- 
ton if all his patriarchs had arrayed themselves in 
special and separate companies, so that they might 
have been sent back to their firesides after their inspir- 
ing story had gone the round of the newspapers, and 
before they had caught their deaths of cold. Unfortu- 
nately, grandfathers were impartially enlisted through- 
out every militia battalion of the continent; and the 
case was sometimes all the worse when they brought 
their grandsons with them. An English officer, who 
spent several years as a prisoner in one State or another, 
had leisure and opportunity for observing the weak sides 
of the American military system. You would see, (he 
said,) in the ranks of the militia a soldier of sixty 
marching next a boy of sixteen ; a sturdy negro, and an 
old decrepit white man limping by his side; most of 


them wearing great bushy wigs, and presenting a spec- 
tacle to which nothing could do justice except the pencil 
of Hogarth.^ 

These veterans, according to one of their admirers, 
were a theme for Homer; and undoubtedly they re- 
sembled the Nestor of that poet in the facility for copious 
dissertation by which they enlivened the camp, and the 
comparisons which they drew between the generals of 
their youth and the degenerate race of strategists by 
whom they now were commanded. But, whatever 
might be their failings, at all events they brought with 
them respectability ; — an attribute the largest possible 
infusion of which was needed in order to counteract 
those baser elements which, for the first time, were dis- 
agreeably prominent in the colonial army. The men 
who swarmed in upon Lord Percy's line of retreat on 
the memorable nineteenth of April, and who then 
stayed with the colours until they had taken Boston, 
were the pick of the population, — true volunteers, 
actuated by public motives. But in the summer of 
1776 the institution of a compulsory ballot had swept 
good, bad, and indifferent into the State militia. Not a 
few men of questionable antecedents, whom the fortune 
of the lot had spared in their own persons, entered the 
ranks as hired substitutes ; for there already were 
plenty of timid and slothful householders eager to 
purchase exemption from service, and prepared to 
satisfy the demands of a tariff which, as the war pro- 
ceeded, rose to famine prices.^ The contrast between 
the force which had lain in front of Boston, and the 
force which at present occupied New York, soon became 
painfully visible. Colonel Reed, the Adjutant General, 
informed President Hancock that the army was com- 
posed of a greater mixture than any which had yet 

1 American Archives^ July 23 and November 29, 1776. Travels through 
the interior parts of America by an Officer ; Letter XCVIII. 

2 " A rich and well-to-do militia man does not serve himself. He hires a 
substitute, and pays for two months as much as a thousand French 
Crowns." Baron de Kalb to the Count de Broglie; Valley Forge, Decem- 
ber 1777. 


been collected, and was full of crime. There were men^ 
(he wrote,) to whom thirty-nine lashes was a con- 
temptible punishment. When they had received that 
allowance, they would offer in the hearing of their 
comrades to take as much more for a pint of rum.^ 

In the case of a people endowed with valour, and 
not deficient in volubility, the experience of active 
service soon makes it evident that those two qualities 
are not always united in the same individual. In 
America especially, where national self-knowledge is 
stimulated by a national sense of humour, men discover, 
at an early period in every successive war, that heroes 
of the tavern and the street corner are in a large pro- 
portion sluggards on the march, and skulkers in action. 
''When I see," wrote Colonel Reed, "how few who 
talked so largely of death and honour are around me, 
and that those who are here are those from whom it 
was least expected, I am lost in wonder and surprise. 
Your noisy Sons of Liberty are, I find, the very quietest 
in the field. An engagement, or even the expectation 
of one, gives a wonderful insight into character." ^ 
Loud politicians often showed themselves tame soldiers ; 
and professional bullies were invariably among the very 
worst. A Federal general, eminent in the War of the 
Secession, expressly says that champions who had been 
the terror of their native place in time of peace, — whose 
features were disfigured by traces of the prize-ring, or 
of conflicts with a rival volunteer fire company, — were 
no better than cringing cowards in an honourable 
encounter where death stared them in the face.^ 
The relative worth for military purposes of a ruffian, 

1 Colonel Joseph Reed to the President of Congress ; New York, July 25, 
1776. American Archives, 

2 Colonel Reed to his wife ; September 6, 1 776. 

8 '• The Philosophy of Courage," by General Horace Porter ; a paper 
which, perfect in its class, appeared in the Century Magazine of June 
1888. General Porter justly contrasts these noisy braggarts with the men 
who, on the evening before the assault at Cold Harbor, were seen calmly 
and silently writing their names and home-addresses on slips of paper, 
and pinning them to the back of their coats ; so that next morning their 
bodies might be recognised, and their fate made known to their families. 


and of a plain quiet man, is an old story, — as old as 
war.^ In the summer of 1776 a Pennsylvanian captain, 
(for the drudgery of enlistment, in the American Army, 
devolved not upon the sergeants, but on the com- 
missioned officers,) had got hold of a recruit who enter- 
tained his comrades with stories of the race-course and 
the cock-pit, and froze their blood by dark hints of the 
fate reserved for any one who ventured to trifle with 
him, and with his like. '* There," he would say, " is a 
fellow that has not his match in the country. See what 
a set of teeth he has ! A man's thumb would be nothing 
to them." This worthy had been introduced to the regi- 
ment by a sporting gentleman, who recommended him 
for a soldier on the ground that he would be no loss to 
the countryside, and that he would stop a bullet as well 
as anybody. That however, as soon as shots began to 
fly, proved to be the very last thing which he had an 
idea of doing ; and thenceforward, whenever his com- 
pany advanced to skirmish, he was left behind to guard 
the colours. 

But, though there were more black sheep than could 
be wished among the American militia, the great ma- 
jority of them were as decent, worthy people as ever 
marched out of step. They had the virtues of civilians ; 
and many of them, when they joined the camps around 
New York, to all intents and purposes were civilians 
still. Some battalions arrived at the front without 
having learned the rudiments of training. In Virginia, 
the most military community of the whole continent, a 
spectator who had seen one of the independent com- 
panies put through what, at that distance from Berlin, 
was called the Prussian exercise, spoke of the perform- 

1 Tacitus states it as a recognised fact that gladiators made a poor 
figure among the swordsmen in a Roman battle. Xenophon tells of a 
noted Thessalian boxer, who, during the Retreat of the Ten Thousand, dis- 
tinguished himself only as a marauder, a mutineer, and a malingerer. 
And, as long ago as the Iliad itself, a pugilist, to whom no one in the 
whole Grecian army before Troy could stand up for five minutes, confessed 
without reserve, and apparently without shame, that he was of very small 
count in the line of spears. 


ance as a mere burlesque. The General Orders, which 
Washington issued in rapid succession to his New York 
army, dealt for the most part with very elementary 
points of discipline. Captains were instructed, over 
and over again, to see that, in the presence of the enemy, 
every man had twenty-four cartridges in his pouch, and 
a good flint well fixed in the lock of his piece ; colonels 
were informed that they must break sentries of the 
habit of sitting down, and laying by their muskets, 
before they could shoot them for sleeping at their posts ; 
and subalterns were desired, when the line was turned 
out on ceremonial occasions, to salute by taking off 
their hats, until they had mastered the correct method 
of presenting their fusees. 

A very diligent reader of American annals has 
remarked that it must always prove a source of wonder 
to the scientific soldier, and of mystery to the historical 
student, how the Revolutionary war could ever have 
been carried through.^ At the critical moment of each 
campaign the militia habitually evinced a desire to go 
back to their homes ; and they belonged to a people 
who usually take the shortest way to get whatever they 
may want. It must be admitted that a military life pre- 
sented itself to them under the least seductive aspects. 
The pride and pomp of war were often represented 
in their case by a strip of cloth, which once had been 
red or yellow, sewed on to the sleeve of their upper 
garment. Comforts they had none. The men of the 
contingent, which marched for Canada under General 
Sullivan, possessed one shirt apiece, and often not a 
waistcoat in a company ; and that expedition was fitted 
out as lavishly as the slender resources at the command 
of Washington would admit. The pay which the 
militia received, — or rather, to speak more accurately, 
the pay which was in arrear to them, — was computed 
on a lower scale than that of the Continental troops. 
They were unprovided with blankets, tents, or shoes; 

1 Introduction to the private papers of George Clinton, by Hugh Hast- 
ings, State Historian: New York and Albany, 1899. 


and, at the end of the severe campaign which now was 
opening, an English officer observed, not without a 
touch of sympathy, that the few coats which they had 
among them were out at elbows, and that a whole regi- 
ment seldom could display a whole pair of breeches. 
They were often in hot quarrel with their military 
superiors. Officers of a company were chosen by the 
company, under a system which ensured the most 
absolute freedom of election. Indeed, wherever coer- 
cion took place, it did not come from above. A 
Maryland colonel had called his regiment together, in 
order to poll for a field officer. They met on another 
day from that which he had appointed ; they refused 
to let him be present at the counting; and, when 
he insisted on his right to inspect the votes, they 
threatened to throw him over an adjoining fence. In 
fine weather, and commodious quarters, the relations 
between all ranks were pleasant enough. The Adju- 
tant General of the army mentioned in a letter to his 
wife that he had seen a captain of the Connecticut 
Light Horse shaving a trooper on the parade-ground. 
But, when the service became hard, and the discipline 
severe, privates were apt to regard their officers as 
constituents view a representative whose political con- 
duct has deceived their legitimate expectations. " Cap- 
tain Watkins and his men," (thus ran an official report,) 
" are on very ill terms. The Captain has beat some of 
them. He says he has great cause. They say he has 
none. Some of the men have said that nothing shall 
induce them to stay in the company under him." ^ 

It did not, however, require a special or a personal 
grievance to turn the thoughts of American militiamen 
in the direction of their homes. The peculiar condi- 
tions of their service were well known to British Min- 
isters, and ranked high among those circumstances 
which encouraged the Cabinet to believe that the 
colonies would soon be brought to terms. Mr. Paul 

^ Letter to the Maryland Council of Safety; September 1776. Ameri- 
can Archives. 


Wentworth, a steadfast partisan of the Crown, exposed 
the weakness of New England in a series of extremely 
able letters addressed to Downing Street. The most 
cultivated parts of the country, (this gentleman wrote,) 
contained no spare labourers ; so that the farmers and 
their families mutually assisted each other to reap their 
harvests. He had remarked, too, that there were more 
females than males among them ; and, from their pro- 
lific nature, and the plenty of food and raiment, a great 
proportion of children was to be found in every farm. 
From those facts the writer deduced the cheering con- 
clusions that the devastation of the rural districts would 
cause acute and wide-spread suffering, and that the 
militia would be for ever running off to get in their crops, 
and protect their wives and little ones. Each of the two 
inferences was correct by itself : but in the long run the 
one neutralised the other. The horrible misery inflicted 
in the Jerseys by British foragers, and Hessian plun- 
derers, did more than all the proclamations of Con- 
gress, and all the sermons of militant Whig clergymen, 
to convince the farmers that the only method of safe- 
guarding their property and families was to remain to- 
gether in the front, and keep the invader well outside 
their borders. 

But, in the summer and fall of 1776, that truth 
had not been taken to heart by those it most concerned. 
The colonists gratefully acknowledged that it was a 
wonderful harvest with which Heaven had blessed 
their land ; ^ and to an honest militiaman, who could cut 
his swath much more neatly than he could do his fac- 
ings, it savoured of impiety that the precious gifts of a 
bountiful Providence should not be duly reaped and 
garnered. " Their complaints are without number ; '* 
(the colonel of a regiment wrote). ** Some have got 
ten or twelve loads of hay cut, and not a man left to 
take it up. Some have got a great quantity of grass to 
cut. Some have not finished hoeing corn. Some, if 
not all, have got their ploughing to do, for sowing their 

"^ American Archives ; November 1776, 


winter grain. Some have all their families sick, and 
not a person left to take care of them." ^ In the absence 
of the farmers, the work was mainly done by women ; 
a sight strange, and almost unnatural, to a people which 
already had begun to consider that sex as too good 
to be employed on field-labour. General Greene told 
Washington that the harvest throughout New York and 
Connecticut had been generally got in by wives and 
daughters, assisted by the men whose advanced age 
rendered them unfit for the army; — and, to judge by 
those who thought themselves young enough to serve, 
that age must have been advanced indeed. Ladies of 
the first consideration, without regard for their dignity 
or their complexions, set the example of self-help to 
those around them. Towards the end of August, at the 
Forks of Brandywine, girls were harnessing the ploughs, 
and preparing fallows for the seed, on the very fields 
where, a twelvemonth from that date, a costly crop of 
human life was reaped.^ 

Militiamen, whose families were domesticated near 
the Indian border, had a more poignant motive for go- 
ing home to keep watch and ward beneath their own 
roof-trees. The riflemen, indeed, who came from the 
Southern colonies, were spared one most serious anxiety; 
for danger was not apprehended from the slaves. Lord 
Dunmore, the Governor of Virginia, — apparently for- 
getting that George the Third had upheld the slave- 
trade against the earnest wish of the colony, — did his 
utmost to provoke a servile insurrection. He proclaimed 
freedom to all negroes, appertaining to rebels, "who 

1 Colonel Fitch to Governor Trumbull of Connecticut ; August 1776. 
On the 1 2th of the same month Hezekiah Howell, of Blaggs Clove, wrote 
to General Clinton what may be regarded as a specimen letter. " By 
your calling Captain Woohul's Company I am entirely stript of Hands to 
carry on my business, having but one Negro and a boy left with me, and 
the most of my hay to get, (no hands are to be had for hire,) besides if 
they are continued long I shall be unable to sow any winter grain. If it 
is anyways consistent with your duty I should take it as a favour to let 
either my son or grandson Return home as soon as possible." 

"^ Greene to Washington ; July 25, 1776. Private letter of August 27, in 
the American Archives, 


would take arms against their masters " ; and Virginians 
never forgot or forgave the threat.^ The Governor's 
invitation, however, was not heeded by those to whom it 
was addressed. The negroes refused to rise, continued 
to eat their rations peaceably, and even made a show of 
working ; but, although they remained loyal to their 
owner, nothing except his bodily presence could keep 
them from being lazy. It was a poor life for a small 
planter, distracted by the thought of his tobacco left 
unhoed, and of his field-hands revelling in idleness and 
rude plenty, while he was marching wearily from defeat 
to defeat, empty and barefoot, and with a gun longer 
than himself on his aching shoulder. 

It was the most difficult thing in the world, (so Wash- 
ington declared,) to know in what manner to conduct 
himself with respect to the militia. " If you do not be- 
gin to raise them many days before they are wanted, 
you cannot have them in time. If you do, they get tired 
and return, besides being under but very little order or 
government while in service." ^ A general complained 
that the army was mainly composed of raw levies, per- 
petually fluctuating between the camp and their farms. 
According to another officer, they had come and gone 
in such shoals that His Excellency could never tell for 
two days together the strength which he had at any 

1 A letter from Antigua, in a London newspaper, relates that Lord 
Dunmore's offer to emancipate and arm the slaves of Virginia " had 
incensed the whole continent, and inflamed the minds of many who 
before were pacifically inclined." The Governor's former subjects dwelt 
with satisfaction upon the real, or supposed, details of his exit from the 
province. " A nine-pound ball from the Lower Battery entered the ship's 
quarters, and beat in a large timber, from the splinters of which Lord 
Dunmore got wounded about the legs, and had all his valuable china 
smashed about his ears. It is said that his Lordship was exceedingly 
alarmed, and roared out; * Good God, that I should have come to this ! ' " 
American Archives; July 1776. The opinion entertained about Lord 
Dunmore by American loyalists was the same as that held by American 
rebels. "The unimportant, insignificant, fribbling Governor of Virginia 
has gone back to England." So Judge Curwen remarks in his Journal 
of December 1776. 

* Washington to the President of the New York Convention; New York, 
August 30, 1776. 


given post. One element of uncertainty was soon re- 
moved from Washington's calculations ; for, after the first 
success of the British, his numbers no longer fluctuated, 
but sank steadily by thousands every week. The militia 
altogether ceased to come; and they went in larger 
parties than ever. There was no stopping them ; and it 
was useless even to talk of recovering them by force.^ 
All through September they departed by whole regi- 
ments, by half regiments, and by companies. They 
carried away their arms, and their ammunition too, at a 
time when it was almost worth its weight in silver ; as 
well as other Government stores which, to their artless 
fancy, seemed likely to conduce to the comfort of the 
folks at home.2 Within a fortnight after fighting com- 
menced, the Connecticut militia had been reduced from 
six thousand, to less than two thousand, rank and file. 
Washington bitterly exclaimed that to place any depend- 
ence upon such a force was resting on a broken staff. 
" Men just dragged from the tender scenes of domestic 
life, unaccustomed to the din of arms, and totally un- 
acquainted with every kind of military drill, are timid, 
and ready to fly from their own shadows. The sudden 
change in their manner of living, particularly in their 
lodging, brings on sickness in many, impatience in all, 
and such an unconquerable desire of returning to their 
respective homes that it not only produces shameful de- 
sertions among themselves, but infuses the like spirit 
into others."^ 

^ " By the enclosed return of my brigade, you will observe that there are 
wanting, to complete, 596 men. I know it is my duty to cause deserters to 
be apprehended. I can't. If I send officers and parties of faithful men 
after them, I thereby weaken the army. The deserters hear of them in 
their neighbourhood, know their business, and, (I am sorry to add,) are 
too frequently aided in evading my guards." General George Qinton to 
Washington; September 8, 1776. 

2 One of the fugitives was detected in possession of a cannon-ball, 
which he intended as a present to his mother, for the purpose of pounding 
her mustard. 

^ Public Papers of George Clinton, Vol. I. Memoirs of a Life chiejly 
passed in Pennsylvania. Washington to the President of Congress; 
September 2 and 24, 1776. 



The militia would have done less ill if it had been 
better commanded. "We want men of knowledge to 
instruct us,'* was the prayer of those among the rank 
and file who aspired to become real soldiers ; ^ but the 
officers, who should have been the teachers, in many 
cases had nothing of value to impart. European Gov- 
ernments already recognised in theory, though by no 
means uniformly in practice, that military commissions 
ought to be conferred upon men who had been carefully 
picked, and minutely and rigorously trained. That, 
however, was a counsel of perfection which, in the 
hurry of a sudden war, the Americans held themselves 
excused from even attempting to attain. Congress 
made a Colonel or a Major with little regard to his pro- 
fessional acquirements, or his personal qualities. The 
result sometimes astonished French generals belonging 
to a service in which the field-officers were young noble- 
men of high spirit and courtly manners ; or veterans, 
scarred at Fontenoy, who had spent half a lifetime in 
putting the regiments of the Bourbonnais, or the Royal 
Deux-ponts, through their complicated and stately 
manoeuvres. " One risks nothing," said Baron de Kalb, 
" in calling * Colonel ' a stranger who accosts you. The 
army swarms with them."^ And the Baron then pro- 
ceeded to enlarge upon certain details amply justifying 
the taunt which these gentlemen occasionally applied 
to each other in their cups ; " Did Congress see you be- 
fore they appointed you } " Captains and Lieutenants 
were elected by the soldiers ; whose choice, in a bad 
regiment, was dictated by unwarlike, and often very 
unworthy, considerations. The process had unpleasant 
features even in the most virtuous and patriotic com- 
munities. The journal of a New England minute-man, 
himself a true hero, faithfully depicts the strong and 
the weak sides of the American military character. On 
Sunday the twenty-third of April, 1775, Amos Farns- 

1 Address to the Virginian Convention; July 29, 1775. 

2 Baron de Kalb to the Due de Broglie. Henry Stevens's Facsimilt^ 
of the Correspondence during the American Revolution. 


worth, of Groton in Middlesex county, heard a fine dis- 
course on the words, " Thou therefore endure hardness, 
as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." On Sunday the thir- 
tieth the Reverend Mr. Goodridge, in an excellent sermon 
from a stirring text, **incoridged us to go and fite for 
our Land and Contry, saying we Did not do our Duty if 
we did not stand up now." And yet the intervening 
week was apparently spent neither in prayer nor in 
drill, but ''a Strugling with the offisers which shold be 
the hiest in offise." ^ 

Quarrelling too often did not cease when the election 
was over. Officers were for ever bickering about ques- 
tions of rank and promotion, with the susceptibility of 
military men, and the breadth of language familiar to 
civilians whose vocabulary had been invigorated by the 
constant pursuit of local politics. Discord within the 
ranks was sometimes very little mitigated even by 
the most imminent danger from without. When Howe 
began his forward movement in Long Island, the officers 
of a New Hampshire battalion were not on speaking 
terms in consequence of a disagreement as to whether 
the companies should be marched to public worship on 
Sunday morning together or separate.^ That same sum- 
mer a gentleman in the South Carolina militia informed 
his State authorities that the Indians were in arms on 
their frontier, along the banks of the river Saluda. ** I 
am afraid," he said, " the burden of the war will fall 
on this regiment. The people over the river will do 

^ Amos Farnsworth's Diary; published in the Proceedings of the 
Massachusetts Historical Society for 1899. Mr. Goodridge preached from 
Judges XX. 22 and 23 : " more particularly the last Clause in the 23rd 
verse." That verse runs: "And the children of Israel went up and wept 
before the Lord until even, and asked counsel of the Lord, saying, Shall I 
go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And 
the Lord said, Go up against him." They had already gone up against 
him once, on the 19th of April, when Farnsworth "came to Lexington, 
whare much hurt was done to the houses thare. But they was forsed to re- 
treat, tho thay was more numerous than we. And I saw many Ded Regu- 
lars by the way." 

2 " Our Colonel," (the Major wrote,) " will not talk with me on the 
subject, but a great deal about me." 

o 2 


nothing. They grumble at being commanded by a 
major. If Williamson is fit to command an expedition, 
he certainly ought to have a much higher rank than any 
of these chaps." In the course of a month the whole 
district had been over-run by savages, and the unfortu- 
nate writer of those lines had been shot down, and 
scalped while still alive.^ Towards the end of August 
one of Washington's brigadiers represented himself as 
having shifted his quarters from New York to Eliza- 
bethtown Point, '' to be with the men, and enure them 
to discipline ; which, by my distance from the camp, 
considering what scurvy subaltern officers we are like to 
have while they are in the appointment of the Mo- 
bility, I found it impossible to introduce. And the 
worst men, (was there a degree above the superlative,) 
would still be pejorated by having been fellow-soldiers 
with that discipline-hating, good-living-loving, to eter- 
nal fame damned, coxcombical crew we lately had from 
Philadelphia." 2 

That letter was one among a hundred others which 
betokened a condition of feeling productive of endless 
scandal, and immeasurable danger. At the moment 
when every effort was required to check Carleton's 
advance from Canada, General Schuyler reported that 
he saw with deep affliction the unhappy jealousy occa- 
sioned by those colonial differences which reigned in 
the Northern army.^ Washington, in a General Order, 
entreated officers and soldiers to consider that they 
could not more effectually assist the enemy than by 
making divisions among themselves ; that the honour 
and success of the army, and the safety of their bleed- 
ing country, depended upon their harmony ; and that 
things would only go well if the provinces were sincerely 
united in a common cause, and all local distinctions 

1 Letter from Francis Salvador; July 18, 1776. 

2 This officer who used, the more forcibly to express his disgust, a Latin 
compound which he had never found in Johnson's dictionary, was William 
Livingston, Brigadier General of the New Jersey Militia, and afterwards 
Governor of his State. 

' General PhiUp Schuyler to the President of Congress; July 17, 1776. 


sunk in the name of an American.^ The earnestness 
of the Commander-in-Chief's appeal is explained by the 
peculiar composition of the force under his immediate 
orders, which included contingents from the entire con- 
tinent. Throughout that army provincial prejudice was 
unusually bitter, and exceptionally vocal ; and it took 
the form of reflections cast by the officers of one State 
upon the social standing of officers who were natives of 
another. New York was a colony which had a plentiful 
supply of rich and leisured proprietors ; while it con- 
tributed very few battalions to the defence of the Revo- 
lution. It was acknowledged on all hands that the 
officers of those battalions were men of the world, who 
knew how to impress upon those beneath them a sincere 
belief that levelling principles were incompatible with 
good soldiership. A New York officer, people said, 
might be distinguished without a badge ; but among the 
tents of the New Jersey, and Maryland, and Pennsyl- 
vania regiments, an observer, with an eye to race and 
breeding, looked around in vain for the gentry of the 
country .2 It was even remarked that, — while the aris- 
tocracy of the Old Dominion might be found on the 
staff, and, (at a later period of the war,) in the cavalry, 
— a Virginian infantry colonel was marked out by the 
colour of his cockade rather than by his address and his 
appearance. That was asserted, or rather was whis- 
pered, because Virginians were accustomed to use a 
short way with critics ; but, if the idleness which pre- 
ceded active hostilities had been much prolonged, cap- 
tains and subalterns from the most pacific colonies would 
have been sending challenges like so many Southern 
planters. A few days before the General Order exhort- 
ing to unity and mutual tolerance was published, 
Nathanael Greene informed Washington that two offi- 
cers had fallen out, and had appointed the next 
morning to fight. They knew that he knew it; and 
he was perplexed what course to adopt, inasmuch 

1 Orderly Book of August i, 1776. 
* Pennsylvanian Memoirs^ chapter vi. 


as duelling contravened all law, whether civil or 

While the Southern and Middle Colonies had their 
own dislikes and preferences among themselves, they all 
joined in decrying the New Englanders. These latter 
complained, with as much dignity as such complaint 
admitted, that Georgians and Carolinians habitually 
spoke of them as damned Yankees.^ One Southern gen- 
eral treated New England regimental officers with 
scanty deference, going so far as to refrain from offer- 
ing them a drink under circumstances when they had 
every right to expect one. A court martial, comprising 
a majority of Southern judges, acquitted with honour a 
Maryland lieutenant who had been wanting in becom- 
ing respect, and prompt obedience, towards a Northern 
brigadier.^ Even General Putnam, on horse-back in 
his summer costume, with a hanger belted across his 
brawny shoulders over a waistcoat without sleeves, 
excited hilarity rather than enthusiasm in a martial 
dandy from Baltimore, blazing in scarlet and buff, like 
a British line-officer, and distinguished " by the most 
fashionably-cut coat, the most maccaroni cocked hat, 
and the hottest blood of the Union." Putnam, (so the 
talk ran,) was brave, and had a certain honest manli- 
ness about him ; but he was not what the time required. 
There was justice in that observation, and not much 
ill-nature. The part of the farmer-captain was already 
played out, and the exigencies of more regular warfare 
now demanded another type of leader; but the old 

1 General Greene to Washington ; July 25, 1776. 

2 Charles Gushing to his brother; July 8, 1776. Authorities on this 
point are painfully abundant. 

^ The privates from the various colonies got on together more pleas- 
antly than their officers. " A traffic was soon established between the 
common soldiers from the East, and the Pennsylvanians. This consisted 
in a barter of the ration of rum for that of molasses. The Yankees did 
not care for the first, and our Irishmen could very well dispense with the 
latter." Chapters v., vi., and vii. of the Pennsylvanian Memoirs pro- 
vide a curious and authentic account of what men thought about each 
other at the moment, in contrast to much that is written of them in 


man's fame is indissolubly connected with that stage of 
the contest when he performed, in every meaning of the 
term, yeoman's service to his country. 

The Northern, (or as New Yorkers and Pennsyl- 
vanians usually called them, the Eastern,) provinces 
had, at the call of duty, poured forth enormous masses 
of armed men from every class except the wealthiest. 
Those who came from that class were singularly well 
read in military history, and displayed a remarkable 
aptitude for utilising in the field the ideas which they 
had thought out in the study ; but they were very few. 
The higher education, especially in Massachusetts, was 
mostly on the other side of politics. Of loyalists who 
sailed from Boston, in the wake of Howe's retreat, one 
in five had been at the university. It may be doubted 
whether, among the officers of the militia regiments 
which were besieging the town, one in fifty had been a 
Harvard man. Harvard showed quite another record 
during the war of the Secession. In the four years 
following the spring of 1861 twenty-nine of her sons 
died of exposure and camp epidemics, and sixty-nine 
by the enemy's fire. In dead alone, her contribution 
towards the maintenance of national unity as nearly as 
possible equalled what was then a full year's entry of 
her students. But in 1776 the spirit of the place was 
altogether different. Harvard, up to the very eve of 
the Revolution, was a temple of privilege, in which the 
scholars were ranked according to the dignity of family.^ 
This system, — the closest imitation which a colony 
could produce of the institution of fellow-commoners 
and gentlemen-commoners at the English universities, 
— survived, but not for long, the up-turning of Ameri- 

1 John Adams stood fourteenth in a class of twenty-four ; and he would 
have stood lower still but that, although his father was a hard-working 
farmer, his mother had been a Boylston of Brookline. A much more 
exalted academical position was allotted to the son of a colonel, who 
belonged to no less a family than the Chandlers of W^orcester ; but of 
whom nothing is recorded except that he emigrated to Halifax, and left 
behind him at his death seven pairs of silk stockings and two pairs of 
velvet breeches. 


can thought which was caused by the agitation against 
the Stamp Act. The Harvard class of 1770 was ar- 
ranged in alphabetical order; and the change was 
regarded as a pregnant indication that society was 
tending towards republican principles. 

Two Americans very soon discerned the danger 
which could not fail to subsist until military rank was 
closely connected with individual worth, and well- 
founded social consideration. So long, (said Washing- 
ton,) as the only merit that a captain possessed was his 
ability to raise recruits, the privates treated him as an 
equal, and, in his character of a commander, regarded 
him no more than a broomstick.^ John Adams, in 
season and out of season, (if such teaching can ever be 
ill-timed,) urged the doctrine that officers, whether or 
not they belonged to an aristocracy of birth, should 
constitute an aristocracy of talent and instruction. In 
October 1776, — while the British and American armies 
were at grips around New York, — he carried through 
Congress a motion for the appointment of a committee 
to consider a plan for the establishment of a military 
academy. The project fell through, at a crisis when 
every young fellow of courage was wanted in the front 
as soon as he had learned how to judge distances and 
deploy a company. But the author of the scheme kept 
it constantly in mind ; and a quarter of a century after- 
wards, as President of the United States, he enjoyed 
the satisfaction of creating that celebrated college on 
the river Hudson which has been surpassed by none 
in the world as a nursery of great soldiers.^ 

These poorly organised battalions were the component 
parts of a loose-jointed and unwieldy whole. The 
Commander-in-Chief found it necessary to remind all 
and sundry that, when every officer exerted himself in 

^Washington to the President of Congress ; September 24, 1776. 

2 The Military Academy at West Point was incorporated in 1802 ; 
whereas Adams ceased to be President in 1801. He was, however, the 
real founder of the college. The details of its organisation, and the 
selection of its first professors, were his favourite occupation during his 
last year of office. 


his own department, an army moved like clockwork ; 
but that otherwise it was an ungovernable machine, 
which perplexed and distracted those who attempted to 
conduct it. In July 1776, twelve quires of paper were 
served out to each regiment, on which it was intended 
that the colonel should write reports ; but which he too 
frequently used for writing letters to his representatives 
in Congress about the injustice of his not having been 
made a major general.^ Washington proclaimed it as a 
melancholy truth that returns, essentially necessary for 
a Commander-in-Chief to govern himself by, and which 
ought to be prepared in an hour after they were called 
for, were obtained with the greatest difficulty ; and that, 
in regiments where the men were allowed to straggle 
from quarters, instead of being called over three times 
a day on the parade-ground, no account whatever of 
their numbers was forthcoming.^ A brigadier general 
had, indeed, the excuse that his staff was deplorably 
short-handed. Nathanael Greene now learned, with the 
docility of a valiant and modest man, that a hero's 
business was more complex, and vastly more tiresome, 
than any conception which he had formed of it from 
his reading of Plutarch. His experience was akin to 
that of the adjutant in Sherman's corps, who passed his 
days filling up Army forms in triplicate " in order to 
stamp out the rebellion." Greene at length was reduced 

^The Commander-in-Chief got his share of complaints from officers 
who had been passed over for promotion. A Colonel thus addressed him 
in August 1776 : " My disgrace is unalterably fixed by conferring the detur 
digniori upon those of inferior standing, without the least competition of 
superior merit. The variety of incidents, that may happen in an engage- 
ment, will possibly demand my submission to the orders of a Brigadier 
General whose standing till lately has been subordinate to mine. Diso- 
bedience may lose a victory which is courting our embrace. How cruel 
the alternative to be obliged to submit to my own infamy, or, by refusing, 
incur the penalties of death ! " The writer then proceeds to console him- 
self, and if possible to touch Washington, by quoting a saying of Sertorius, 
and three most harrowing lines from Young. 

2 Washington to Colonel Gay ; September 4, 1776. General Lee, in 
the South, experienced the same difficulty in getting punctual and accurate 
reports. " I cannot send a return of our strength just now ; " he wrote ; 
" for the Adjutant General, who is in love, has forgotten a whole regiment." 


to apply for a secretary. " The science and art of war," 
(as he pathetically represented to Washington,) ** require 
a freedom of thought and leisure to reflect upon the 
various incidents that daily occur, which cannot be had 
where the whole of one's time is engrossed in clerical 
employment. If your Excellency thinks I can promote 
the service as much in this employment as any other, I 
shall cheerfully execute the business without a murmur." 
Washington's generous heart foresaw in his correspondent 
a competitor in fame, who under no stress of rivalry 
would cease to be a loyal brother in patriotism. Within 
twenty-four hours an official notice was circulated that, 
General Greene being particularly engaged at present, 
passes signed by Lieutenant Blodgett were to be allowed 
sufficient to enable people to cross the ferries.^ Wash- 
ington himself had only three aides-de-camp ; or four, 
if he counted in his secretary. John Adams remarked 
that they all came from the Southward, were young 
gentlemen of letters, and thought full as highly of them- 
selves as they ought to think, and much more dis- 
respectfully of New England and of Congress than 
they ought to have thought.^ Fine energetic fellows, 
they must have brought with them from their planta- 
tions a large outfit of conceit if there was any remain- 
ing after they had resided six months at headquarters. 
They were miserably remunerated ; and, as the only 
set-off against their bad pay, they were so continuously 
worked as to have no opportunity of spending a cent on 
their private diversions.^ 

In European campaigns of the eighteenth century it 
frequently happened that the defects of an infantry, 

1 Order of July 26, 1776. 

* John Adams's Autobiography for October I, 1776. 

• " I give in to no kind of amusements myself ; and those about me can 
have none, but are confined from morning to evening, answering the appli- 
cations and letters of one and another. If these gentlemen had the same 
relaxation from duty as other officers, there would not be so much in it. 
But to have the mind always on the stretch, and no hours for recreation, 
makes a material odds." Washington to the President of Congress; New 
York, April 22, 1776. As a consequence of this letter the pay of these 
aides-de-camp was raised from thirty-three dollars a month to forty. 


which was not all that a general could desire, were com- 
pensated by the excellence of the auxiliary arms ; but 
that resource was denied to Washington. In 1780 and 
afterwards, when active hostilities were in a large degree 
confined to the Southern colonies, a fine cavalry formed 
itself by a natural and spontaneous growth among 
populations which almost lived on horseback. It was 
said that a poor Virginian would walk a league to catch, 
or borrow, a horse which should carry him a mile to 
church. A rich planter, when once he had stepped 
outside his verandah, liked to feel between his knees a 
hunter which could run a four-mile heat in ten minutes, 
or a ** pacer," (the ancestor of the true American race- 
horse,) which trotted its fourteen miles within the hour. 
In the Northern colonies, however, animals were kept, 
not for speed and show, but for work ; nor were their 
masters such skilled equestrians as to be able speedily 
to train roadsters and cart-horses into chargers. The 
only cavalry in the army around New York consisted in 
some regiments of Light Dragoons from Connecticut. 
They traversed the city, five hundred strong, amidst the 
respectful sympathy of the New England militia, and 
the undisguised amusement of Southerners. Even to 
Pennsylvanian eyes they appeared old-fashioned men ; 
" heads of families, many of them beyond the meridian 
of life " ; carrying fowling-pieces and even duck-guns, 
in place of carbines and sabres ; while here and there, 
in their long and disordered line of march, might be 
noticed triangular laced hats and dingy scarlet regimen- 
tals, redolent of glories which had gained in lustre by 
the lapse of time. " Some of these worthy soldiers," 
(an admirer wrote,) " assisted in their present uniforms 
at the reduction of Louisburg ; and their lank lean 
cheeks, and war-worn coats, are viewed with more venera- 
tion by their honest countrymen than if they were 
glittering nabobs from India." ^ 

Washington surveyed the quaint procession something 
too much in the spirit of a country gentleman who rode 
^ Letter from New York of July 10, 1776. 


to hounds. There was plenty of capability, and some 
youth, in those heterogeneous ranks ; and he might well 
have picked out eight or ten score of the best horses 
and smartest men, and subjected them to as much dis- 
cipline and practice as time permitted. Six weeks still 
remained before the fighting began ; and Captain Henry 
Lee, or Captain William Washington, would have got a 
small body of cavalry into shape soon enough to be of 
essential service. On the twenty-seventh of August, 
1776, a couple of troops of yeomanry, posted and 
handled by two such officers, would have saved many 
hundred Americans from capture.^ A less judicious 
course was adopted. The Commander-in-Chief had 
not the money to purchase the horses from their own- 
ers, and declined to be at the expense of feeding them. 
He proposed to dismount the brigade, and employ it 
on fatigue work ; but the men statedly refused to have 
anything to do with "the pick-axe, the shovel, or the 
wheelbarrow." They lingered a while in camp, pas- 
turing out their horses at their own cost, and reminding 
each other that it would be cheaper to be carrying their 
hay at home, instead of consuming other people's grass 
at the rate of a dollar a fortnight ; ^ and then they re- 
turned to Connecticut, having marched across the stage 
at a moment so critical, in the history of a nation which 
dwells so minutely on its own past, that posterity has 
been told a great deal more about them than about the 
hussars of Seidlitz, or the cuirassiers of Murat. One 
of them found his way to Long Island, and fell into 
the hands of the British, who made merry at his ex- 
pense, and would not be satisfied until they had put 
him through his cavalry exercise. When questioned 
about the nature of his duties in the rebel army, he 
replied that he could flank a little, and carry tidings. 

1 There is a very just remark to this effect in an article by Mr. Charles 
Francis Adams, the younger, on the Battle of Long Island. 

2 Washington's despatches of July 9, 10, 11, and 17, 1776. On July II 
the Colonel wrote : " The men are principally farmers, and have left their 
grass, their grain, and other affairs, much unprovided for ; and they hope 
every method will be taken for their speedy relief." 


The language seemed uncouth to a professional ear; 
but the poor trooper, according to his lights, had in 
this matter shown more wisdom than his famous 

Washington was very ill provided in another arm, 
second in importance to none on account of the peculiar 
nature of the region which he had undertaken to defend. 
To man the batteries of New York, to garrison the forts 
along those vast estuaries which embraced the city, and 
to work his field-guns in line of battle, he had but five 
hundred artillerymen present for duty.^ Howe com- 
manded four times that number, perfectly equipped 
and disciplined, and concentrated under his hand for 
every purpose of war.^ On the side of the Americans 
in the earHer battles, round-shot and grape did little 
to supplement the musket-balls ; and of muskets there 
was a poor show. Late in June, Washington's Adjutant 
General reported that two thousand soldiers were des- 
titute of arms, and nearly as many more had arms " in 
such condition as rather to discourage than to animate 
the user." Three weeks afterwards, at a review of New 
York militia where the men were drawn up four deep, 
the entire rear rank in some regiments, and a great part 
of the centre ranks, had no firelocks. And again in 
August, when the same State called out its last reserves 
to line the river-front and guard the ferries, the Con- 
vention ordered that each man, who had not arms, should 

1 In August 1776 the Returns of the Army under General Washington 
show 585 artillerymen. In the same month, out of 27,000 American 
infantry, only 19,000 were present for duty. The effective artillerymen 
cannot have exceeded the number named in the text. 

2 In 1777 Howe marched to Philadelphia with eight companies of the 
British Royal Artillery ; and the war strength of a company was 250 men. 
There was still some German artillery left ; and it must be remembered 
that, in the summer and autumn of 1776, the Hessian guns and gunners, 
whom Washington captured in December, were still at the disposal of the 
English General For information relating to the strength of the British 
forces I am greatly indebted to the courtesy of Colonel Gerald Boyle ; the 
extent of whose researches into the military statistics of the Revolutionary 
war I am enabled to measure by the circumstance that he has never failed 
to solve any question on which I have consulted him. 


bring with him a shovel, a spade, a pickaxe, or a scythe 
straightened and fixed upon a pole.^ 

The raw levies of America were subjected to an 
ordeal which has proved too severe for many a veteran 
army. From the first it was impossible to adapt their 
victuals exactly to their taste ; and, later on in the 
campaign, it often happened that no food whatever was 
issued under circumstances when it was most wanted. 
The husbandmen of New England, (we are told,) " used 
to feed plentifully, on excellent viands, and almost 
literally on milk and honey. The great harvest in 
Massachusetts and New Hampshire is Indian Corn, 
which they boil plain, and with milk, two or three 
hours into a hasty pudding, and mix it with molasses 
or with finer syrops. They mix also this Flour with 
Wheat ; but the Bread, unless split and baked like ship 
Biscuit, will not keep three days. These are no pro- 
visions for a campaign." 2 Nevertheless the ostensible 
ration, though not precisely what a farmer liked, was 
all that a soldier had any right to claim ; — bacon and 
mutton ; butter for the sick ; a daily quart of spruce 
beer and cider, or molasses for those who had a sweet 
tooth ; peas, beans, potatoes, vinegar, and salt, — all of 
the very best, unless the contractor was prepared to 
have his goods returned upon his hands; with three 
pounds of candles a week to every company, as well as 
four and twenty pounds of soap. It was to the honour 
of New England housewives that they had educated 
their sons and husbands into a keen appreciation of the 
blessings of cleanliness even under the most adverse 
conditions. General Greene made it a personal favour 
that his troops should receive a double allowance of 
the means for washing clothes when they were occupied 
in digging trenches; and a Colonel, — who had inter- 

1 Colonel Reed, June 28 ; Egbert Benson to the New York Convention 
in the middle of July ; and a note subjoined by Jared Sparks to the letter 
of General Washington, August 12, 1776. In May a new colonel had 
written to his Provincial Congress : " Gentlemen, I want arms. I have no 
more than no in the regiment. For God's sake exert yourselves." 

2 Letter from Paul Went worth ; Auckland MS S, 


cepted a British mess-train laden with six pipes of what 
he had ascertained to be Madeira, some hundred dozen 
of a liquor conjectured to be Teneriffe, and a chest of 
soap, — requested that his men might have some of the 
wine, but earnestly begged that they might keep all the 
soap.^ Such was the comfort and abundance officially 
promised to the militia ; but experience unfolded another 
tale when the fat weeks around New York were suc- 
ceeded by the lean months of marching and counter- 
marching on the shores of North River, and along New 
Jersey byways. 

The Staff departments of the American army were 
sparely manned, and feebly conducted. Among them 
all, that of the Quartermaster General was in lowest 
repute. The office had been conferred upon Colonel 
Mifflin, who was brave and not corrupt; but more of an 
orator, and very much more of a party manager, than of 
a military administrator. He was appointed Quarter- 
master General, as a man is appointed anything and 
everything at the outset of a Revolution, on account of 
a reputation mainly founded on his having been the 
author of a sentence which embodied the popular faith 
in few and telling words ; ^ but his aptitude lay else- 
where than among his professional duties, and his short 
official career was a hopeless struggle against insupera- 
ble difficulties. Colonel Mifflin's misfortunes, as head 
of the transport, began early. When he became 
Quartermaster General in October 1776, many of his 
waggons, and those the best, had been left behind on 
Long Island ; and nearly all that remained had fallen 

^ Greene to W^ashington, July 1 1 ; Colonel Huntington to General 
Heath, December 4, 1776. 

'•^ " Let us not be bold in declarations and cold in action, nor have it 
said of Philadelphia that she passed noble resolutions, and neglected 
them." The words were spoken at the town meeting held in Philadelphia 
on receipt of the news from Lexington. Mifflin, before the campaign was 
over, rendered some brilliant and remarkable service, though not in his 
own department. He soon afterwards retired from the Staff, and betook 
himself to politics. After no long while he was chosen President of Con- 
gress, and occupied the Chair on the fourteenth of January, 1784, when 
that body ratified the final treaty of peace with England. 


into the hands of the British when they took New York. 
Without waggons, (so General Lee pronounced,) it was 
sometimes as impossible to march a hundred miles, al- 
though the fate of a Colony depended on it, as if the 
soldiers wanted legs. But there are times in warfare 
when, at a vast expense of human misery, the impossible 
has to be accomplished, or at least attempted. Needs 
must when a victorious enemy is driving ; and the 
American army retreated, and turned round to fight, 
and retreated again, throughout an autumn, and half a 
winter, in which the weather began by being bad, and 
became atrocious. The Commissariat broke down. 
Supplies of food were less than scanty. The Conti- 
nental troops, according to a belief current among the 
Provincial regiments, obtained more than their wretched 
share of the jMttance that was forthcoming ; and the 
swarms of militiamen, who had gathered round the 
standards in July, melted away under starvation and 
exhaustion, and by the end of December had almost 
totally disappeared. 

Such, in its weak points, was the American army : 
but it had merits even more peculiar than its imperfec- 
tions; and those imperfections care and time might 
remedy, while its more valuable attributes were of a 
kind which no mere military training could create. In 
many of the infantry regiments two companies, out of 
ten, were armed with rifles ; and from almost every 
homestead along the Western border came a backwoods- 
man carrying a weapon which was the pride of his eyes, 
and a main implement of his industry. " Over every 
cabin door hung a well-made rifle, correctly sighted, and 
bright within from frequent wiping and oiling. Beside 
it were a tomahawk and knife, a horn of good powder, 
and a pouch containing bullets, patches, spare flints, 
steel, tinder, and whetstones, with oil and tow for clean- 
ing." All these appliances were of the very best ; be- 
cause the sustenance of the family, and, (when the 
Indians were out and about,) its existence and its hon- 


our, depended upon straight shooting. A boy of the 
wilderness, at an age when in England he would have 
been scaring crows, was sent to kill squirrels, under 
penalty in case the number of the squirrels did not tally 
with the number of bullets that he expended. So soon 
as he had passed his twelfth birthday, he was recognised 
as part of the garrison of the farm, and was allotted his 
loophole in the stockade which encircled it. In the 
more settled districts, many of which were wild enough, 
the country folk spared no pains to keep up the stand- 
ard of marksmanship that ruled among their grand- 
fathers when their township was still a frontier district. 
They exercised themselves assiduously with the rifle ; 
just as an English yeoman under the Tudors, jealous for 
the departing glory of the long-bow, made it his duty to 
practise at the butts. A shooting match formed part of 
the programme in all colonial festivities, and drew more 
spectators than the horse-race, the auction, the raffle, or 
the dance. But every American, who boasted pioneer 
descent, preferred a living target. The time had passed 
when venison was everywhere a staple food, with which 
the population were surfeited ; ^ but deer roamed in the 
Southern forests ; and, where deer ran, wolves were 
seldom absent. Wild turkeys were killed with the bul- 
let, and afforded a repast of which no epicure ever 
wearied ; and an incautious sportsman might at any 
moment find himself in startling proximity to a wild- 
cat.2 There were New Englanders, who, (as if they 
could not fail, even in their pastimes, to outrage the 
aristocratic sentiment of the old country,) had shot as 
many as ten foxes of an evening. In the most civilised 
provinces water-birds, from geese to teal, were in enor- 
mous abundance; wood-pigeons, when the season for their 

^ There was a time when one planter's household in Maryland was said 
to have had eighty deer in ninety days. The inmates at length preferred 
dry bread to venison. 

2 A British officer, a prisoner in the interior of the country, was in real 
danger from one of these animals. A colonist, who was fortunately at 
hand with his rifle, put a bullet through its brain. Travels through the 
Interior Parts of America; Letter LXIX, 



slaughter came, might be bought in the Boston market 
for a few pence the hundred ; and a rustic, although his 
gun was nothing more than a fowHng-piece, had at all 
events learned the habit of shooting with intent to kill. 

That habit did something to supply the want of a pro- 
fessional training in the American artillerymen. When 
a British fleet bombarded the Charleston forts on the 
twenty-eighth of June, Carolinian officers, laying down 
their pipes to point the guns, waited patiently for the 
smoke to clear away that they might aim with more pre- 
cision. Seldom, in so fierce an engagement, was so lit- 
tle powder consumed by the victors, or so much tobacco. 
When the fire opened, the colonists had less than thirty 
rounds for each cannon ; and only seven hundred 
pounds of powder were sent into the batteries during 
the conflict. And yet the British flagship was hulled 
no less than seventy times ; the squadron lost over two 
hundred killed and wounded ; and the two largest men- 
of-war were reduced to little better than a couple of 
wrecks. General Charles Lee, who commanded the de- 
fence, had issued orders that, if it came to a fight on 
land, no field-pieces should be discharged at a distance 
over four hundred, and no rifles over a hundred and 
fifty, yards. He addressed willing ears. A colonist, in 
the first years of the war, was often prone to run away 
if he was very much afraid of being killed himself; but, 
when he stood his ground, it was with an express pur- 
pose of killing some of his opponents. The deadly, 
personal, character of American sharpshooting was for 
the British an unexpected and disconcerting phenome- 
non, and would have altogether daunted less brave 
troops than those against whom it was directed. " This 
war," said an English officer, "is very different to the 
last in Germany. In this the life of an individual is 
sought with as much avidity as the obtaining a victory 
over an army of thousands." ^ 

Nothing Uke it had ever been witnessed on the other 
side of the Atlantic. Marshal Saxe, — whose exploits, 

A Travels through the Interior Parts of America ; Letter XXXI. 


experience, and natural ability gave him high rank as 
an authority, — stated that he had more than once seen 
a regiment in action fire a volley without killing four 
men.^ The musketry instruction vouchsafed to a Euro- 
pean fusilier was most elementary. He was taught to 
point his weapon horizontally, brace himself for its 
vicious recoil, and pull a ten-pound trigger till his gun 
went off ; if, indeed, it did go off when the hammer fell. 
French powder was bad ; and the flints used in the 
English army were execrable. A most indifferent char- 
acter is given them by one of our colonels, who had 
fought in America and the West Indies. On the day 
of a grand review, (he said,) a captain, who had the 
credit of his company at heart, would buy them flints 
at his own expense. The pebbles supplied by Govern- 
ment were good for five or six shots, but after that they 
could not be trusted ; and the springs of the lock were 
too stiff and strong for convenient handling.^ Under 
those circumstances it was no wonder that even a cool 
and courageous soldier let off his piece at the mass of 
uniforms opposite him without distinguishing between 
the individuals. 

The slaughter in the commissioned ranks at Bunker's 
Hill, as is sure to be the case with an unpleasant nov- 
elty, excited moral disapprobation in English circles. 
** How far," one gentleman wrote, "the Bostonians can 
justify taking aim at officers with rifled muskets, I am 

1 Article VI., page 21, of Reveries or Memoirs on the Art of War, by 
Field Marshal Count Saxe ; English Translation, London, 1757. When 
serving under Prince Eugene, at the battle of Belgrade, the Marshal saw 
two battalions give a fire upon a large body of Turks at thirty paces ; in- 
stantaneously after which the Turks rushed through the smoke, and with 
their sabres cut the whole to pieces upon the spot. " I had curiosity 
enough," he wrote, " to count the number of Turks which might be de- 
stroyed by the general discharge of two battalions, and found it amounted 
only to thirty-two." The Marshal, in his observations, discriminated be- 
tween the many nations whom he had led, or met, in battle. A British 
volley at near hand, as no one knew better than the victor of Fontenoy, 
was sometimes a deadly performance. 

2 Vol. II., page 47, of a Military Miscellany, by the Honourable Colin 
Lindsay, Lieutenant Colonel of the Forty-sixth Regiment. 

P 2 


not military jurisprudent enough to determine. It 
seems to be contrary to justice."^ There was no ques- 
tion of justice, but of physical and mental custom 
which had become an ingrained instinct. Many a col- 
onist had never in his life fired off a charge of powder 
without singling out something or somebody, whether 
it was the chief with the largest bunch of feathers in 
a rush of Indian warriors, or the drake in a string of 
wild-fowl. In the later stages of the war, proficiency 
with their weapon was still retained by troops whom 
Washington had by that time brought under the influ- 
ence of the best traditions of British discipline. The 
old military precept, by enforcing which General Wolfe 
gained the battle of Quebec, — that the line should 
reserve its fire until the enemy was within forty paces, 
— produced a terrible effect when, as was the case with 
the American army, at least one private out of every 
three in that line had been a marksman from his boy- 
hood upwards.^ 

American soldiers possessed another most valuable 
qualification for war which, from that day to this, they 
have never lost. The multifarious labours of the farm 
in a thinly peopled country had taught them to con- 
struct intrenchments quickly, out of the materials that 
lay closest to hand. On the evening after the engage- 
ment at White Plains, Washington's officers exultingly 
declared that their men were the most expert in the 
world in making breastworks. In an hour or two they 
had built an amazingly long stone fence, and covered 
it properly with earth. On the same day, in another 

^ Historical Manuscripts. Commission: Fourteenth Report, Appendix, 
Part IX. MSS. of James Round, Esq., M.P., of Birch Hall, Essex. 

^ In the eighteenth century the ideal of every good colonel, who gave 
the word of command in English, was that his battalion should deliver 
" one close well-directed fire at the distance of eight or ten rods." Amer- 
ican Archives ; October 27, 1776. 

\Vhilc writing the last f »ur paragraphs I have been especially indebted 
to two articles in American periodicals; — " Social Life in the Colonies," 
by Edward Eggleston, in the Century Magazine for July 1885; and "The 
Birth of the American Army," by Horace Kephart, in Harper*s Magazim. 
for May 1899. 


part of the same position, lay a field of Indian 
corn which the soldiers pulled up by armfuls. The 
roots of the stalks, with the great lumps of soil adhering 
to each bundle, were arranged "in the face of the works, 
and answered the purpose of sods or fascines. The tops 
having been placed inwards, as the loose earth was 
thrown upon them, became as so many ties to the work, 
which was carried up with despatch scarcely conceiv- 
able." When more time was at the disposal of the 
Americans, and when the neighbourhood happened to 
be well wooded, their field-works attained a perfection 
of solidity. The fortifications on Long Island consisted 
of timbers a yard thick, laid side by side to a breadth of 
ten or twelve feet, and a height of twenty ; and a hedge 
within gun-shot of the rampart was deftly converted 
into an abattis which ought to have been sufficient to 
delay the assailants while a half dozen rounds were 
being fired by the defenders. Wherever, as in the 
siege-works outside Boston, there was a continuous 
front which could not be turned; the rank and file of 
the army might be trusted, almost without superior 
direction, to render that front impregnable ; but it was 
another matter when the work to be done was beyond 
the scope of spadesmen, wood-cutters, and mechanics. 
The American had not yet been discovered who was 
equal to the task of locating, and laying out, an isolated 
and self-contained fortress which might confidently be 
esteemed defensible. In November 1775 Washington 
had informed his Government that the camp could not 
furnish one good engineer ; and he was no better pro- 
vided in May 1776, when necessity called upon him to 
occupy the shores of New York Island, and the domi- 
nant headlands along the Hudson River, with strong- 
holds upon the maintenance of which the very existence 
of the Republic, to all appearance, depended. His 
Chief Engineer was Colonel Rufus Putnam, nephew to 
the Major General. Fashionable and fastidious officers 
objected to him because he had been seen carrying his 
own ration of meat to his quarters. When speaking 


about the gorge of a redoubt, Colonel Putnam was ru- 
moured to have pronounced the word as if it were the 
name of the King with a view to whose discomfiture that 
redoubt was in course of erection ; which, indeed, would 
have mattered little if only the work had been so planned 
as to keep the monarch's soldiers outside its walls. But 
the science of Vauban, even more than others, demands 
the acquisition of exact knowledge as an indispensable 
preliminary to the inspirations of natural genius. Put- 
nam's citadels were death-traps for their garrisons ; 
and not Putnam's only. General Arnold wrote from 
St. John's that his Engineer was a perfect sot ; and 
indeed he appears to have taken so little account of 
water as a beverage that one stockade in the Northern 
district did not include a well or a spring, although the 
space walled in was too large for any force that could 
be spared to hold the post. ** The thing called a fort," 
(such is the testimony of an eye-witness,) "baffles all 
description. It is an irregular polygon; — irregular 
indeed, and indefensible with a vengeance." ^ 

After a while Colonel Putnam resigned his position, 
on the respectable plea that Congress had refused to 
sanction the formation of a separate corps of sappers and 
miners. He took command of an infantry regiment, 
which every Major General was soon eager to have 
attached to his brigade ; for Putnam made his people 
skilful boatmen and good workmen, and he himself, like 
a true American, had been instructed, and not disheart- 
ened, by his own failures as an engineer. Washington 
was in no hurry to replace him either by a native ama- 
teur, or by one of those numerous foreigners who, to 
hear them talk, were as good as anything that had ap- 
peared since Archimedes ; but whose only ascertained 
qualifications were that they could not speak English, 
and stood in urgent need of a salary. At length he 
secured the services of four excellent French officers, 

1 Washington's letters of November 2, 1775; Pennsylvanian Me- 
moirs^ chapter vi. ; Arnold to Sullivan, June 10,1776; and Bernard 
Romans to Gates, November 1776. 


regularly bred to their business, who came to the United 
States with the knowledge and approbation of their own 
Government. Soldiers and men of science, these gen- 
tlemen were neither martinets nor pedants. They knew 
how to encourage the cleverness, and stimulate the exer- 
tions, of an American working-party ; and in return they 
freely acknowledged that better sappers and military 
artificers did not exist than the farm-hands of Rhode 
Island and New Hampshire, and the lumberers from the 
forest-camps on the banks of the Kennebec and the 

The military successes of the colonists were in part 
due to a special circumstance with reference to which 
their ardent, and in other respects sympathetic, well- 
wishers in Parisian philosophical circles regarded them 
as sadly behind the times. Patriotism and religion ex- 
isted in other countries ; but the colonies had not passed 
the stage when, in many minds, these two sentiments 
were inextricably mingled. ReKgious doctrine in America 
was more reasonable and milder, and far less intellectu- 
ally tyrannical, than among English Puritans and Scotch 
Covenanters during the great period of their history; 
but not John Lilburne, or Baillie of Kilwinning, had a 
stronger and more present faith in the personal govern- 
ment of the universe than that which, in the year 1776, 
animated the congregations of America. Those congre- 
gations never doubted that the Almighty dealt directly 
with nations as with individuals ; and it was a belief 
which, (as in other virile and thoughtful communities, 
when profoundly excited by momentous events,) took 
shape in a persuasion that their own interests and for- 

^ " I have to mention," (so Washington wrote from Trenton on Decem- 
ber 20, 1776,) "that for want of some establishment in the department 
of engineers, agreeably to the plan laid before Congress in October last, 
Colonel Putnam, who was at the head of it, has quitted, and taken a regi- 
ment in the State of Massachusetts. I know of no other man tolerably 
qualified for the conducting of that business. None of the French gen- 
tlemen whom I have seen appear to me to know anything of the matter." 
The Chevalier Duportail was appointed Chief Engineer in the latter part 
of the year 1777, and retained that employment until the war had ended. 


tunes were, in some sort, His peculiar care. Such a 
persuasion, when sincerely held, is a political, and still 
more a warlike, force of remarkable potency. So far 
from tempting those who entertain it to relax their efforts 
because the final result of those efforts is ordained on 
high, it makes them diligent in preparation, valiant in 
action, and, above all things, patient and resolute in ad- 
versity. Jonathan Trumbull was the Governor of Con- 
necticut, than whom no more vigilant and painstaking 
an administrator ever raised a regiment or levied a war- 
tax ; and he thus expressed himself to the Commander- 
in-Chief of the army which he was labouring night 
-and day to feed and to reinforce. " It is nothing with 
God to help, whether with many, or with those that have 
no power. He hath so ordered things in the administra- 
tion of the affairs of the world as to encourage the use 
of means, and yet so as to keep men in continual depend- 
ence upon Him for the efficacy and success of them." ^ 

That was no waste of ink, even in an official corre- 
spondence. The faith which actuated, and the spirit 
which possessed, not a few among her leading men be- 
came of ever increasing advantage to America when mis- 
fortune darkened down upon her hopes. Those men 
had seldom exulted unduly over their successes ; and 
they did not murmur or quail beneath disaster, inasmuch 
as, to their view, it came straight from One who never 
chastised unjustly or without design. When the colo- 
nists were victorious, His was the glory ; and when they 
were brought within sight of destruction, it was a speak- 
ing testimony from Heaven against a sinful nation.^ That 
was the creed of religious Americans, who were the leaven 
of the people, whatever proportion they might bear to 
the entire mass. It was held alike among the rich and 
the humble ; and it was a creed especially well suited 

1 Governor Trumbull to Washington; August 31, 1776. 

* The Atnerican Archives contain a fine letter of September 1776, 
referring to the evacuation of New York by Washington's army. 
"Trouble," said the writer, " does not spring out of the dust, nor rise from 
the ground. It is God who has blunted the weapons of our warfare, and 
fashioned the counsels of our wise men to foolishness." 


for fighting men. There was many a soldier who hon- 
estly strove to mend his ways, and make himself a better 
Christian, in order that he might contribute towards 
averting the Divine wrath from his cause; who spent 
his leisure, not in criticising his superior officers, but in 
searching his own heart and examining his own conduct ; 
and who went into battle with a quiet conviction that his 
life was in God's keeping. 

Such an one was Amos Farnsworth, who came of a 
homely, a thriving, and, (it is almost needless to add,) 
a very numerous 31assachusetts family. He did not 
spell his own name correctly on the title-page of his 
diary ; but that diary is nevertheless a record worth the 
attention of all such as care to understand the inner 
springs of the American Revolution. Soon after the 
young man joined the army before Boston, he anxiously 
and solemnly devoted himself to God's service, and 
prayed earnestly that he might be strengthened to keep 
his resolution. On Sunday, the eleventh of June, he 
listened to a sermon on the duty of resting all our care 
on Him who cares for us : and, before the week was 
out, his faith was put to the test ; for on the following 
Friday, (he writes,) " Our Regiment paraded, and about 
Sunset we was drawn up and heard Prayers, and about 
dusk marched for Bunker's Hill, under command of our 
own Colonel Prescott." Next day Farnsworth did not 
leave the redoubt until it was filling fast with British in- 
fantry ; and, before he had retreated fifty yards, he was 
struck by two bullets, one of which shattered his right 
arm. They sent him back to the care of his " honoured 
father " ; and after eight weeks of suffering, on the first 
day that he could make shift to form the letters of an 
entry in his journal, he rejoined the regiment in such a 
condition that the surgeons insisted on his undergoing 
a severe and painful operation. 

He belonged to a class of men who entered on the 
war gravely and ruefully, but who meant to see it through. 
Their path had been made very plain before them by 
the Declaration of Independence. That event, (to use 


their own words,) had called them out of darkness into a 
marvellous light ; for they were as those who in time 
past were not a People, but who now were determined 
so to bear themselves, under their passing trials and 
perils, that a People for all future time they should 
remain. Of such material was composed that handful 
of Washington's followers, the last remnant of a great 
host, who, when they found themselves, — starving 
indeed and exhausted, but safe, and for the moment 
unassailable, — behind the broad and rapid Delaware, 
deliberately re-crossed the river, and went once more 
into the lion's mouth. Sandwich and Rigby called these 
poor people cowards : and undoubtedly they feared God, 
a weakness from which the Bedfords were exempt. But 
they were not afraid of the midnight torrent, swirling 
with ice-blocks ; and, when they reached the further 
shore, they were not afraid of the Hessians. Hating 
war, — shocked by the coarseness, the vice, and the self- 
seeking from which camps are never free, — they contin- 
ued under arms until peace was secured ; and then they 
went home, purposing thenceforth to do their share as 
citizens towards making the country, which they had 
saved, worthy of the signal favours accorded to it by 

1 Some extracts from Amos Farnsworth's Diary for 1775-6 are given in 
the Second Appendix, at the end of this volume. 



During all summer and autumn, in that year of 1776, 
the gaze of the American continent was, from time to 
time, directed with anxiety towards the quarter whence 
Sir Guy Carleton and his army were expected. The 
command of the Northern department had been en- 
trusted to General Philip Schuyler; a leading person- 
age among a group of Dutch families, endowed with 
vast landed possessions in the province of New York, 
and closely connected among each other by the ties of 
marriage. Schuyler's wife was a Van Rensselaer, whose 
ancestor had been the Patroon, (or, in more familiar 
terms, the Hereditary Superior,) of a manor extending 
over six hundred square miles ; within the boundaries of 
which he nominated the administrative and judicial offi- 
cers, held a Court Leet and a Court Baron, received a 
tenth part of the revenues, and was responsible for con- 
ducting civil government and for maintaining order.^ 
Before 1775 that immense district, which constituted 
the Van Rensselaer property, had been divided among 
the heirs, male and female ; but the value of each share 

1 Mr. Floyd de Lancey, in a careful essay, has drawn a distinction be- 
tween the Freehold Manors of America and the Feudal Manors of mediae- 
val Europe; but the resemblance between the two systems was stronger 
than modern opinion would tolerate. In 1830 the New York Legislature 
put an end to what was exceptional in the territorial institutions of the 
State, and declared in so many words that " all feudal tenures of every 
description, with all their incidents, are abolished." Mr. de Lancey's 
paper was a contribution to the valuable, and very bulky, work, entitled 
History of Westchester County ; edited, and largely written, by J. Thomas 
Scharf, A.M., LL.D. 



had grown rapidly, and the proceeds of the several es^ 
tates had become enormous, in kind, if not in money. 
The sons were very great people, and the husbands of 
the daughters also. Schuyler, who himself had suc- 
ceeded to several large fortunes, had a noble town-house 
in the suburbs of the provincial capital, and a country 
seat beneath whose roof he fondly hoped that his declin- 
ing years would be passed. But the future of that 
mansion was less secure than the owner had anticipated ; 
although it was situated in a peaceful valley on the head 
waters of the Hudson, in the pleasant hamlet of Sara- 

Schuyler, as a youth, had behaved with courage in the 
French war. He had a great name among the Indians, 
whom he knew how to regale and to amuse, and whose 
self-respect he flattered by treating with their chief men 
on equal terms when they approached him in the char- 
acter of negotiators. During the Revolutionary war his 
popularity with the tribes did much to counteract the 
influence of the Johnsons, — the famous Tory and Loy- 
alist house of Tryon County on the Mohawk river. 
Schuyler sate, whenever he chose, in the Provincial 
Assembly, where he was resolute against the Stamp 
Act; and in June 1776 Congress appointed him one of 
the first four Major Generals. None of the four dis- 
played high merit ; and the great New York land-owner 
had his points of superiority over each of the other 
three. A man of honour and ability, he showed himself 
more unselfish and trustworthy than General Charles 
Lee ; and he was much younger than General Putnam, 
and very much younger than General Ward. But the 
profuse and continuous hospitality which he dispensed 
in town and country had told a tale upon his constitu- 
tion.2 In the previous autumn he had accompanied the 

^ The Life of Catherine Schuyler, by Mary Gay Humphreys, throws 
much light on the character and motives of General Schuyler; although 
that attractive volume does not professedly bear upon the disagreeable 
historical controversies which have clustered around his reputation. 

* At the funeral of Mrs. Cornelia Van Cortlandt, the General's mother, 
140 gallons of wine and two barrels of ale were consumed by the mourners. 


expedition to Canada in person, as far as St. John*s on 
the Sorel river, until gout and rheumatism brought him 
back from the front. He returned to the camp from 
time to time, when his health permitted ; but he never 
was successful in the field. He remained for the most 
part in Albany, providing and forwarding men and 
military stores, and loyally guiding the main operations 
of the Northern war in a direction conformable to the 
general plans of Washington. 

When Schuyler was at the base of operations, the 
charge of the active army devolved upon General 
Horatio Gates. Of him it is sufficient to say that, al- 
though his name is linked with the most celebrated 
American triumph of the Revolutionary war, the his- 
torians of a patriotic and, (where signal public services 
are in question,) a lavishly grateful nation, say much to 
his discredit, and very little indeed in his praise.^ The 
future conqueror of Saratoga, except in his appetite for 
fame and preferment, was a very ordinary man ; and, 
when he took over Sullivan's beaten army, he had to 
deal with extraordinary difficulties. Crown Point, in 
June and July 1776, was not a camp, but a lazar-house. 
A visitor from Connecticut related that he never looked 
into a bed or a hut in which he did not find a dead or 
dying man. " Everything about this army," (so Gates 

A visitor from Maryland acknowledged the Schuyler Madeira to be 
sounder than any that was drunk in his own colony; and a French Mar- 
quis, who had no provincial jealousy to qualify his relish of it, was still 
more emphatic in his commendation. But gout comes from other causes 
than strong liquor, as our own sober generation sadly recognises. Mrs. 
Grant of Laggan relates how the tea-table at Madam Schuyler's was cov- 
ered with " all sorts of cake unknown to us; cold pastry; and great quan- 
tities of sweetmeats and preserved fruits of all kinds. In all manner of 
confectionery these people excelled. Having great fruit in abundance, 
which cost them nothing, and getting sugar home at an easy rate in return 
for their exports to the West Indies, the quantities of these articles used in 
families, otherwise plain and frugal, was astonishing. " 

^ Senator Henry Cabot Lodge speaks of Gates as slow and ineffective 
in battle, but sufficiently active in looking after his own advancement; 
Bancroft calls him shallow, vain, and timorous, and of small administrative 
ability; and Mr. John Fiske shortly describes his career as one of intrigue 
and imbecility. 


truly reported,) "is infected by the pestilence; the 
clothes, the blankets, the air, the ground they walk 
upon." During an early stage of the retreat from 
Canada, Sullivan had written to Washington in ominous 
terms. " The raging of the small-pox," he said, " de- 
prives us of whole regiments in the course of a few days. 
Of the remaining regiments from fifty to sixty in each 
are taken down in a day, and we have nothing to give 
them but salt pork, flour, and the poisonous waters of 
this lake." ^ Sullivan enclosed a return of soldiers, ab- 
sent from duty, which was only forty-eight hours old ; 
with the remark that, in the short time which had 
elapsed since the enumeration was made out, a quarter 
part of those given as effectives had been prostrated by 
the camp disorder. Of Colonel Paterson's battalion, (he 
observed,) there was no return at all. That officer had 
but five men fit for duty ; and those had been ordered 
southwards to join the rest of their comrades who were 
all sick at Crown Point. Sullivan, as is known from 
other sources, did not unduly darken the colour of that 
gloomy story. Colonel Paterson had marched out of 
New York, on the twenty-first of April, at the head of 
six hundred healthy well-appointed troops. In Decem- 
ber, Schuyler sent him back to the assistance of Wash- 
ington, in Washington's utmost need ; and, when he 
arrived among the bivouacs of the Southern army, he 
had only two hundred rank and file present with the 

That was the state of things under Sullivan in June. 
In July Gates represented to Washington that it would 
be to the last degree improper to order reinforcements 

1 Sullivan's allusion to the poisonous character of the lake is explained 
in a narrative left by one of his Generals, vi^ho speaks of a white scum 
on the face of the water in the morning, which was driven by the ripples 
against the shore, and which, in the middle of the day, had become putre- 
fied by the sun, and very offensive to the smell. Memoirs of Brigadier 
John Laceyiy published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, in July 

2 Note to Washington's letter of July 19, 1776, in the Edition of Mr. 
Jared Sparks. American Archives for June and July 1776. The Life of 
Major General John Paterson^ by Thomas Egleston. 


to Crown Point or Ticonderoga, until obliged by the 
most pressing emergency, as it would only be heaping 
one hospital upon another; — if indeed hospitals those 
could be named which contained no accommodation for 
invalids, and no medicines whatsoever. " No emetic or 
cathartic, no mercurial or antimonial remedy. It would 
melt a heart of stone to hear the moans and distresses 
of the sick and dying." So the doctors averred; but 
they did not fold their hands in despair ; and, since they 
could not physic the sick, they tried at any rate to keep 
the well fit for duty. They served out to the soldiers 
rum, infused with four pounds of gentian root, and two 
pounds of orange peel, to a hogshead ; and, where these 
ingredients might not be procured, the Regimental Sur- 
geons were directed to use as a substitute snakeroot, 
dogwood, and centaury. In either case the men were 
none the worse for the flavouring matter, and presum- 
ably somewhat the happier for the rum. Though their 
medicine chests were empty, American physicians, al- 
ready in the van of their profession, did not love to be 
idle : and their industry took a shape which, in the view 
of a commanding officer whose object was to keep his 
ranks full, was more than questionable. Inoculation for 
the small-pox, rendered fashionable in Europe sixty 
years before by the example and teaching of Lady 
Mary Wortley Montagu, had become an article of medi- 
cal faith, and a very popular social institution, in the 
colonies. The clergy preached against it as rash inter- 
ference with the designs of Providence ; but it com- 
mended itself to parents, to family physicians, and, what 
was more to the purpose still, (since America in that 
respect was already America,) to the young people 
themselves. They selected a spacious and pleasant 
house with an enclosed garden, made up a cheerful 
party, and were all inoculated together. They reckoned 
upon only two or three days in bed with the illness; 
and then, during six weeks of quarantine and conva- 
lescence, they gossiped, and lounged, and made each 
other merry, and drank tea at all hours, — little thinking 


that the time was close at hand when, except by stealthy 
they would not venture to drink it at all. The custom, 
it was confessed, "could not be regarded as an unmixed 
blessing ; for the patients were sometimes very ill, and 
a few died. Still, when successful, it gave complete 
immunity, and saved innumerable lives." 

There is a time for all things ; and the time to choose 
for inoculating an army is not the moment when the 
hostile columns are breaking through its line of out- 
posts ; but no mere military considerations were power- 
ful enough to deter the American doctors from obeying 
the voice of their professional conscience. They fell 
to work, at first without orders from the general, and 
afterwards in direct defiance of his prohibitions. There 
might be no drugs wherewith to treat the small-pox ; 
but the vehicle for communicating it from one individual 
to another was only too readily procurable. The medi- 
cal staff answered all objectors by the doctrine that the 
disease " was very mortal to those who took it in the 
natural way." But, in the first place, the poor fellows 
who were the subjects of their attentions were already 
half dead with exhaustion and starvation, and had not 
the vitality to endure even the beneficent workings of 
an artificial malady ; and the soldiers who had not been 
inoculated caught the infection, by hundreds a day, 
from those who had undergone the operation. On May 
the twenty-seventh the army, which then was still com- 
manded by General Thomas, was described as broken 
and disheartened, half of it being under inoculation and 
other diseases. Thomas already had small-pox upon 
him, " having taken it in the natural way." But he 
passed his days in the saddle, and his evenings at the 
writing-table, until the second of June arrived ; and then 
he died, and his country has not forgotten him. 

With that melancholy and conspicuous example to 
point their warnings, the men of science carried with 
them the opinion of the army, in every rank below the 
highest. Where a surgeon hesitated to disregard those 
express orders, which were repeatedly issued from head- 


quarters, the soldiers made shift to inoculate themselves 
and each other. Precaution was in some cases a mere 
excuse for poltroonery. Certain officers of the force 
which had been ordered north under Sullivan, on the 
pretext that they were going where small-pox was preva- 
lent, withdrew themselves from their duties ; paid a 
complaisant practitioner to do them the required service, 
and write them out the necessary certificate ; and then 
passed their time among the pleasures of the city. In 
one single corps a lieutenant colonel, a captain, and a 
doctor organised an inoculation frolic of their own, and 
were not to be found when the battalion started. Three 
other field-officers left their regiments on the march, and 
went back in search of an apothecary whose poverty, or 
whose Toryism, would consent to their wishes. Even 
at this distance of time it is satisfactory to relate that 
the whole party were tracked to their haunt in New 
York, placed under arrest, and sent north to be court- 
martialled. The patience of commanding officers was 
in the end exhausted. "A villain of a surgeon," Gen- 
eral Gates wrote in August, " is inoculating the militia 
as fast as they arrive. Such a slave to private gain, 
who would sacrifice this army for the sake of a few 
dollars to himself, deserves condign punishment. As 
fine an army as ever marched into Canada has this year 
been entirely ruined by the small-pox." At last it came 
to an indignant colonel denouncing his regimental doctor 
as a damned puppy of a quack who had carried on the 
abominable practice to the utter destruction of his bat- 

Such words, and worse yet, were beginning to be 
frequently uttered throughout all the cantonments 
which lay between Lake George and Lake Champlain. 

^ The passion for inoculation in the New England regiments was 
intensified by recollections of the great epidemic of 1764. A very inter- 
esting letter from Mr. James Gordon, written in the spring of that year, 
has been published by the Massachusetts Historical Society. Whether or 
not it accurately records the facts and statistics, it faithfully represents the 
belief prevailing in the colony with regard to them. We are told that, of 
the first twelve people seized with small-pox, ten perished ; that the Pro- 



Dreadful reports of the strange oaths which were fash- 
ionable in those regions brought sorrow and consterna- 
tion into many a New England household. Young 
militiamen received from their parents earnest remon- 
strances against " the most foolish and unaccountable 
of vices," and solemn reminders that the business of 
religion ought to be the daily concern in the life of a 
soldier.^ The Reverend William Gordon, the chroni- 
cler of the war, who did not bestow the inestimable 
honour of his presence hghtly, or without conditions, 
promised Gates a visit as soon as he could be assured 
that there was a marked improvement in the language 
employed at Ticonderoga. ''Let not," he said, "any 
future historian have to remark that the best troops in 
the world were most given to cursing and swearing." 
He described himself as plotting to set off in September 
for both camps, and as expecting a cordial reception 
from General Gates and General Washington. If the 
good man's presence at the head-quarters of either com- 
mander depended upon all the adjectives used in their 
immediate neighbourhood being fit for the ears of a 
clergyman, it was likely to be long deferred. Wash- 
ington, on the third of August, addressed to the troops 
round New York a general order regretting that pro- 
fane cursing and swearing, which theretofore had been 
little known in an American army, was growing into 
fashion ; and warning them that it was idle to hope for 
a blessing on their arms from Heaven if they insulted 
it by such impiety and folly, and, (so that true Virginian 
gentleman did not shrink from declaring,) by such de- 
testable and despicable vulgarity .^ 

vincial Assembly adjourned to Cambridge ; that a special Act was passed 
to enable the Courts of Law to sit elsewhere than in Boston ; and that 
everyone who could afford to travel left the city. At length hospitals 
were opened, and three thousand persons inoculated, of whom only three 
or four died ; and by that policy the plague was stayed. 

1 Letter from Governor Trumbull to his son in the Northern army; 
September 1776. 

^ There was one military station where Mr. Gordon might have escaped 
being scandalised ; that is to say, if he had got there before the British 


If the Northern army swore terribly, it was with as 
much excuse as ever army had, whether in Flanders 
or anywhere else. The American soldiers in Canada 
suffered on the one hand from the miserable poverty of 
a recently organised and a struggling government ; and, 
on the other, from administrative defects and corrup- 
tions which had survived from the days of the old sys- 
tem. " Every kind of abuse," (wrote Sullivan in May 
1776,) *'is practised that men long versed in villainy 
could devise. I found at Stillwater a number of barrels 
of pork that the waggoners had tapped, and drawn off 
the pickle to lighten their teams. This pork must inev- 
itably be ruined before it can reach Canada. The wag- 
goners learned this piece of skill in the last war." The 
supplies of clothing, provisions, and warlike stores had 
been exhausted ; and consignments of those articles, 
which at long intervals reached their destination, were 
mostly of the wrong sort. When General Thomas, with 
death close upon him, was trying to rally his defeated 
regiments, and induce them once more to face the en- 
emy, a ton of lead, fifty quires of paper, and fifteen 
pounds of thread were still required to bring the ammuni- 
tion for small-arms up to four and twenty rounds a man. 
Later in the campaign some hogsheads of paper 
arrived ; but the material was too thick for musket 
cartridges, and too thin for cannon. Congress had 
nominated Dr. Franklin, and two others from among 
its prominent members, to inspect the condition, and 
regulate the operations, of the Canada army. As the 
artillery department of that army had not credit to 
hire a cart, the Commissioners brought on three barrels 
of powder in their chaise ; and at one village on their 
route they purchased thirty loaves from a baker's shop 

took it, as take it they did, from its blameless garrison. " Business goes 
on slow at Montgomery since you left it. Nothing has been done except 
to the small battery on the South side of the hill. If Colonel Humphry 
can git his officers together to sing Salms, and tell people how well he can 
govern men without Swearing at them, he is content." Peter Tappin to 
General Clinton ; August 19, 1776. 



to feed a company of famished infantry. " We cannot,*' 
(so these gentlemen reported to Congress,) " find words 
to describe our miserable situation ; — soldiers without 
discipline, and reduced to live from hand to mouth, de- 
pending on the scanty and precarious supplies of a few 
half-starved cattle, and trifling quantities of flour, which 
have hitherto been picked up in different parts of the 
country. Your military chest contains eleven hundred 
paper dollars. You are indebted to your troops treble 
that sum, and to the inhabitants above eighteen hundred 
dollars." That was plain speaking, and it produced 
some effect ; for Congress transmitted for the use of 
the Northern army sixteen hundred pounds in specie, 
together with copies of " a spirited Resolution in favour 
of national independence." But fine words, — and 
very fine words it must be admitted that they were, — 
are a poor substitute for bread, and fresh meat, and 
broad-cloth, and shoe-leather. After the Republic 
was established, its soldiers were fed, clad, and shod 
no better than when their legal status was still that 
of unauthorised rebels against the British Crown. 
So late as October 1776, a Patriot on his travels 
wrote as follows from Saratoga : ** The regiment is 
now within a few miles of this place, marching with 
cheerfulness, but a great part of the men bare- 
footed and bare-legged. There is not a single shoe 
or stocking to be had in this part of the world, or I 
would ride a hundred miles through the woods to 
purchase them with my own money. I shall empty 
my portmanteau of the stockings I have for my own 
use on this journey; but this is a drop of water in the 

Under these distressing circumstances it is not matter 
of wonder that the General responsible for the safety of 
the Northern department should have taken measures 
to refresh and re-fashion his battered army at a point as 
far as possible removed from hostile observation and 
interruption. The retirement to Crown Point had been 
viewed by Washington with doubt, and even with dis- 


approbation.^ In May he had urged Thomas to main- 
tain a stand on the lower reaches of the Sorel river, 
inasmuch as the tract of country within his lines would 
remain faithful and useful to the American cause; 
whereas all the districts which might be abandoned 
would fall, perhaps not unwillingly, into the power of 
Carleton. These gloomy anticipations were fulfilled ; 
and there was worse in prospect. For a hundred and 
fifty miles south from the sources of the Connecticut 
river, throughout the whole of New Hampshire and of 
what is now Vermont, the farming population slept at 
night with their most valuable furniture packed ready 
for an instant move. They had lent their stores of 
ammunition for the use of the Continental army ; and 
Congress was besieged by expresses begging and pray- 
ing for powder, without which the whole of that fertile 
region would have to be evacuated, and the very town- 
ships of Massachusetts would, as a consequence, be laid 
open to the ravages of Indians and French Canadians 
in the Royal pay.^ 

The withdrawal of the army to the south end of Lake 
Champlain was a grave calamity for the Republican 
Government; and, in July, Gates announced that he 
must make a further move backward to the north end 
of Lake George, and place his head-quarters in security 
behind the fortifications of Ticonderoga. This resolu- 
tion was not carried into effect until it had been unani- 
mously sanctioned by a council of generals, amongst 
whom was Benedict Arnold ; and there is, to say the 
least, a strong presumption that no military step, to 
which Arnold gave his assent, can have erred in the 
direction of pusillanimity, or even of excessive caution. 
The decision, however, found plenty of critics. A re- 
monstrance was drawn up in the Northern camp, and 
signed by over twenty Colonels and Majors. Washing- 

^ The operations detailed in this chapter may be followed on the map 
at the end of the volume. 

2 Letter from Exeter in New Hampshire, of June 29, to James Warren, 
President of the Massachusetts Congress. 


ton, in terms which for him were blunt, assured Gates 
that nothing short of a disHke to encourage inferior 
officers in the practice of animadverting upon the action 
of their superiors, and a bcHef that the works at Crown 
Point had already been demolished, prevented him from 
insisting upon the re-occupation of that post. His own 
council of generals, (he said,) had advised him to over- 
ride what they regarded as a disastrous and altogether 
unnecessary measure. Gates combated the arguments 
of the Commander-in-Chief with powerful reasons, put 
forward earnestly, but most respectfully.^ None the 
less he keenly resented the interference of the New 
York generals, who did not confine themselves to giving 
their advice when called upon by Washington, but en- 
forced it in unceremonious private letters addressed to 
their colleagues at Ticonderoga. Putnam, in particular, 
wrote his mind very plainly, and was answered by Gates 
with a spice of fraternal raillery which suggests a lively 
impression of the relations existing between the citizen- 
soldiers of the early Revolution.- 

For the next fifteen months Benedict Arnold was a 
shining figure in the stormy foreground of the war. 
When the rest of Canada was abandoned by the Ameri- 
cans, he had held on to Montreal until the place was 
threatened by an overpowering luiglish force. "Then 
he made a masterly retreat to St. John's. After seeing 
all the men embark, and the last boat leave the shore, 
he, with a single attendant, mounted his horse and rode 
back to reconnoitre the British. Coming in sight of the 

^ Washington to dates; July 19, 1776, CJates to Washington; July 29. 

* " Dear Put, Kvery fond mother «l<4cs on her booby, be his imperfec- 
tions ever so glaring. Qovvn Point was not inileed your own immediate 
offspring; but you had a hand in rearing the i)aby. You cut all the logs 
which are now as rotten as dirt. Why should you not be fond of Crown 
Point? If I live to t>e as old as you, I shall be as fond of Ticonderoga. 
What have you done, and what you not done? Have you blown up 
Staten Island? Have you burned the enemy's fleet? Have you sent the 
two brothers Howe to Hartford Jail? I shall preserve your letter for a 
winter's evening's subject, when we meet again. Remember me affection- 
ately, as you ought; an.l believe me, veteran, your sincere well-wisher, 
Horatio Gates." Crown Point, August 3, 1776. 


advancing columns he satisfied himself of their numbers 
and character. He wheeled his horse just in time ta 
escape, and galloping back to the shore of the lake, and 
stripping his horse of saddle and bridle, the animal was 
shot to prevent his falling into the hands of the enemy. 
With his own hands he pushed his boat from the shore, 
and, leaping into it, he was the last man to leave 
Canada." ^ Arnold had displayed marked abihty and 
valour during the whole period that Sullivan was ma- 
noeuvring on the St. Lawrence ; but it had not been 
within his power to avert defeat. His commanding 
faculties were deprived of free play so long as he was 
under the orders of a self-sufificing, and rather preten- 
tious, general ; and his rare military perception informed 
him that the attempt on Canada had failed, and that the 
forward position of the army was untenable. In June 
1776, (to use the words of John Adams,) Arnold was 
wholly in the dismals. ^ But when the retreat had at- 
tained its utmost limit, and the Americans turned to 
bay, the brilliant officer was himself again, and fixed the 
attention of both the contending nations upon his auda- 
cious, resourceful, and masterful personality. He had a 
fever on him ; and his wound, to which he had never 
given the chance of being healed, was very painful. 
Arnold did not consider his own health ; and, where he 
suspected shirking, he required very strong proof of illness 
in others. He checked the practice of surreptitious 
inoculation by putting the sick on half-rations — a device 
which was quite in Franklin's style; but he spared no 
pains, nor was he scrupulous about the methods which he 
employed, in order to provide abundant, and even ap- 
petising, food for the soldiers who were doing their duty.^ 

* The Life of Benedict Arnold, by Isaac N. Arnold. The impartiality 
of this book is indicated by the motto on the title-page : " He will give 
the Devil his due." 

2 John Adams to Samuel Chase; Philadelphia, June 24, 1776. 

^ Complaint was made, in a letter to Arnold, that his people had dug up 
two fields of young potatoes, and had swept bare an acre of peas, and five or 
six acres of corn. The case was all the harder because the injured party had 
recently sent to Arnold's quarters a present of nearly fourscore salmon. 


Gates, who had some self-knowledge, allowed full 
scope to his formidable subordinate. Whatever depart 
ment Arnold took in hand was at once made alive by 
his energy and inventiveness. An opportunity now be- 
fell him for utilising the experience which he had 
acquired on the high seas as a merchant captain. ** Our 
little fleet," Gates wrote from Ticonderoga, **is equip- 
ping under the direction of General Arnold, with all the 
industry which his activity and good example can inspire. 
As fast as they are fitted they are sent to Crown Point. 
Three hundred men and officers have been drafted from 
the corps here to man the vessels ; one half seamen, the 
other to act as marines. As soon as all the vessels and 
gondolas are equipped, General Arnold has offered to 
go to Crown Point, and take the command of them. 
This is exceedingly pleasing to me ; as he has a perfect 
knowledge of maritime affairs, and is, besides, a most 
deserving and gallant officer." These naval prepara- 
tions, (the General went on to state,) were of the last 
importance ; for should the enemy establish a superior- 
ity over the American flotilla on Lake Champlain, the 
great water-way was theirs, let who would possess 
Crown Point.^ 

That superiority was already a fact, undeniable, and 
in all likelihood irremediable ; and so Arnold well knew, 
for he was admirably served by those on whom he de- 
pended for information. The country in possession of 
the Royal army swarmed with his spies, carrying their 
credentials between the soles of their shoes, together 
with a promise to pay each of them two hundred and 
fifty dollars if he returned alive. The American com- 
mander was perfectly aware that he had on board his 
fleet only one gun for every two of Carleton's ; and that, 
compared with the larger British vessels, his own were 
toy-boats. But the object at which he aimed was to 
present such a threatening appearance as would impose 
upon his adversary, and delay the English advance until 
the season for concerted action between Howe and 

^ G&tes to Washington; July 29, 1776. 


Carleton, for that year at all events, was past and gone. 
And at the bottom of his heart, like other men of his 
stamp, he cherished a secret hope that by desperate and 
aggressive action, — by putting in his last ship, and 
risking the lives of all his crews, — he might violate 
fortune ; and might snatch a victory which in his cooler 
moments, if he ever had them, he himself would recog- 
nise as beyond the remotest bounds of possibility. 

Arnold attacked his task in a spirit of joyous confi- 
dence, which any show of opposition in any quarter at 
once converted into overbearing insolence. His letters, 
during the summer of 1776, read like the correspond- 
ence of a generalissimo. He was surprised, (he de- 
clared,) at the strange infatuation and economy of 
Congress, whose parsimony and negligence would ruin 
all at last. His written requisitions for men and mate- 
rials were flying about through all the continent, ad- 
dressed sometimes to public authorities, and sometimes 
to private employers and capitalists, but always couched 
in a strain which did not brook refusal. On the first of 
July a contract was signed securing to him shipwrights 
at the rate of thirty-five dollars a month, a ration and a 
half of victuals, and one half -pint of rum a day ; and he 
spared no trouble or expense to engage leading workmen 
who might act, (for that phrase was already current,) as 
"bosses." A fortnight later Arnold asked for five hun- 
dred blocks, and seventy anchors and hawsers. Then 
came " a Memorandum of Articles which have been 
repeatedly wrote for, and which we are in extremest 
want of ; " cordage for eighty galleys ; seventeen or 
eighteen hundred cannon-balls ; old useless iron that 
would do for canister-shot ; a hundred seamen who were 
no land-lubbers ; and, (to wind up all,) snowshoes for a 
winter campaign on the chance of the Americans beat- 
ing Carleton, and pursuing him home to Canada. What 
lay in Arnold's own power was very thoroughly done. 
Everything was foreseen, and almost every requisite for 
a naval expedition was provided, except a chaplain. The 
colonial ministers of religion were never very willing to 


embark on ship-board ; and, if any motive could over- 
come their reluctance, it would hardly be the temptation 
of sailing on a forlorn hope with Benedict Arnold.^ His 
final care was to get a medical officer for the flag-ship. 
"I don't think it prudent," (he wrote,) "to go without 
a surgeon. The surgeon's mate of Colonel St. Clair's 
regiment has a good box of medicines, and will incline 
to go with the fleet. I wish he could be sent here, or 
some one who will answer to kill a man secimdmn artem. 
Nothing but a surgeon prevents our proceeding." ^ Colo- 
nel St. Clair's doctor decHned to come ; and in the end 
Arnold borrowed a case of instruments, and sailed with- 
out him. It was his own affair. Until a battle was 
fought, he himself was the only wounded man on board 
the squadron. After a battle the chances were ten to 
one that all the Americans, who did not feed the fishes 
of Lake Champlain, might have their hurts treated by a 
surgeon of the Royal Navy in the cock-pit of an English 

Arnold's amphibious proceedings brought him into 
many quarrels both on sea and land ; from all of which, 
at this period of his career, he emerged a victor. The 
first person with whom he came into collision was, as 
might easily have been foreseen, the naval officer in 
charge of the American squadron. Commodore Wyn- 
koop made a stout fight against the degradation of hav- 
ing to take his orders from an infantry general. " I 
brought him to reason ; " Arnold wrote. " I have given 
him to understand that, if he did not incline to remain 
in the service, he would not be compelled to it." There 

1 " Sir, I received yours yesterday, and am very much obliged to you 
for your advice. As to your complaints of the morals of the people be- 
longing to the Navy, I am now to let you know that I did not enter into 
the Navy as a divine, and that I am not qualified to give directions in that 
matter. The Congress whom I serve have made provision for a chaplain ; 
but to my mortification I have not been able to get a single man to act 
in that character, although I have applied to many. If none can be pro- 
cured, I cannot but condole with you on the depravity of the times." 
Commodore Hopkins to the Pastor of the First Congregational Church at 
Newport ; October 1 776. 

2 Arnold to Gates ; August 2'^^ 1776. 


certainly could be no mistake about the meaning of the 
letter which conveyed this warning.^ Arnold handled 
his pen something too much as if it were a bludgeon ; 
but he saw the point in controversy as clearly as he dis- 
cerned the key of a position in battle, and went for it as 
straight. The outraged Commodore appealed in vain to 
Gates, and from Gates to Schuyler. He was packed off 
down the river to Albany ; and his place as second in 
command was made over to a brigadier, who, like so 
many American soldiers, was a practised seaman. " As 
General Waterbury and General Arnold," (thus Gates 
reported,) "are on the best terms, no dispute about com- 
mand will retard the public service ; " which was well 
for the public service, and very well indeed for General 
Waterbury. Arnold's next antagonists were Colonel 
Hazen, a personage of mark and merit, whom he accused 
of wilful disobedience ; and Colonel John Brown, whom 
he charged with having pilfered from captured British 
stores. These disputes were carried before a court-mar- 
tial of officers, who were treated by Arnold in their col- 
lective capacity exactly as he would have behaved to any 
individual among them who had been rash enough to 
cross him. But, where a man is indispensable, the for- 
bearance of those above him, while the crisis lasts, had 
best be quite unlimited. " The warmth of General 
Arnold's temper," (so his superior officer wrote from 
Ticonderoga,) ** might possibly lead him a little further 
than is marked by the precise line of decorum to be 
observed towards a court-martial. Seeing and knowing 
all the circumstances, I am convinced that, if there was 
a fault on one side, there was too much acrimony on the 
other. I was obliged to act dictatorially, and dissolve 
the Court-martial the instant they demanded General 

^ " You must surely be out of your senses to say no order must be 
obeyed but yours. Do you imagine that Congress has given you a superior 
command over the Commander-in-Chief ? If you do, give me leave to 
say that you are much mistaken ; and, if you do not suffer my orders to be 
instantly complied w^ith, I shall be under the disagreeable necessity of 
convincing you of your error by immediately arresting you." Arnold's 
letter of August 18, 1776. 


Arnold to be put in arrest The United States must not 
be deprived of that excellent officer's service at this pre- 
cise moment." ^ General Schuyler was of the same mind, 
and predicted that Arnold would always be the subject 
of complaint from his subordinates, because his impar- 
tiality and candour would not allow him to see impro- 
priety of behaviour with impunity. The letter in which 
that opinion was expressed called forth the following 
response from Gates. ** I am astonished at the calum- 
nies that go to Congress against General Arnold. To 
be a man of honour, in an exalted station, will ever excite 
envy in the mean and undeserving. I am confident the 
Congress will view whatever is whispered against Gen- 
eral Arnold as the fouled stream of that poisonous foun- 
tain, detraction." 2 

These generous tributes to a great man of action, 
whose fame was then unsullied, will always be read by 
Americans with sorrowful interest. Arnold still wished 
for nothing better than to be the servant of his country, 
if only he were allowed to serve her uncontrolled, and 
with rank and station which fairly represented his by no 
means extravagant opinion of his own value. For the 
present he had no ambition ungratified. He was very 
popular with the rank and file of the army, and counted 
many warm partisans among the officers. Abundant 
supplies were forwarded northwards, from many quar- 
ters, in response to his eager and ubiquitous impor- 
tunities. Everywhere within the circle of his personal 
influence courage revived, attended by hopes which he 
knew how to inspire, but was too perspicacious unre- 
servedly to entertain. The colonel, who had been left 
in military command at Crown Point, bore delighted tes- 
timony to the improved condition of the fleet. '* It is 
now," he wrote, "truly respectable. It goes down the 
lake to-morrow under General Arnold. I make no doubt 
it will prevent the enemy from coming up this year, 
unless some extraordinary disaster should happen to 

^ Letter from Gates in the last week of August 1776. 

* Correspondence of Generals Schuyler and Gates in September 1776. 


it.'*^ All through August letters came south from Ti- 
conderoga, narrating how much the Americans had to eat, 
and how little they now feared the British. The gar- 
rison, by the fifth of August, already mustered thirty- 
five hundred effective men, and militia were marching 
in fast. Ten days afterwards the multifarious elements 
of the army had shaken down into their places ; and the 
troops were already in fair discipline and in high spirits, 
** for they had large quantities of fresh beef." Again a 
month, and Gates wrote to Governor Trumbull that 
fever and ague existed at Ticonderoga ; but his com- 
ments showed plainly that the season of prostration, 
or even of depression, had passed away. " The same 
climate," the General said, *'that affects us, distresses 
our enemies ; but with this difference, that they have 
not half the comforts which our troops enjoy. The 
provisions delivered here are excellent, and plenty reigns 
in the camp. The two hundred sheep sent by your Ex- 
cellency are a seasonable supply. About a hundred 
thousand feet of boards have been distributed to the 
troops, so there has been little distress for want of tents." 
Meanwhile Arnold had gone on ship-board, leaving all 
those comforts behind him. The gratitude felt towards 
him by the soldiers on shore evinced itself in their regrets 
that he must henceforward live on salt provisions, which 
were bad for his wound ; and the sympathy of lands- 
men was increased by the knowledge that, the day 
after he sailed, he had come in for a heavy gale. But 
a storm on inland waters seemed a trifle to an old 
West Indian skipper, whose cargo had sometimes been 
of such a nature that, when Revenue cruisers were 
in the offing, he had rather courted than feared foul 

On the last day of June, 1776, Washington's Adjutant 
General, at the request of his chief, wrote thus to the 
President of the New Jersey Convention : " No doubt 
General Howe is arrived at the Hook with a very large 

1 Colonel Hartley's letter of August 21, 1776. 


force. It would be too dangerous a secret to trust to 
a letter how inadequate our army is to encounter it. I 
am therefore to enjoin the Honourable Body, over which 
you preside, to exert their utmost efforts at this critical 
juncture when, in all human probability, the fate of our 
country, our lives, liberty, and property depend upon 
the spirit and activity that will be shown in a very 
short time." The place referred to in this communica- 
tion was Sandy Hook, not ill described by a contem- 
porary historian as a point of land at the entrance into 
that confluence of sounds, creeks, and bays which is 
formed by the peninsula, at the southern extremity of 
which the city of New York stood ; by Staten Island and 
Long Island; by the North and Raritan rivers; and by 
the continent on either side of that network of estuaries.* 
Howe arrived at the rendezvous long before his time. 
He had been desperately uncomfortable at Halifax, — 
that nook of penury and cold, as it was styled by 
Kdmund Hurke,^ — where the barren soil could with 
difficulty support the native population, and the lack of 
room in the town was such that all the private soldiers 
had been kej)t on ship-board during the whole of their 
stay. Howe was to have waited there for the Hessians, 
and for the English regiments which had been despatched 
from home ports ; and now, in his imjxatience, he sailed 
without them. He picked up on his way, and brought 
with him, such of the Highlanders as had not been 
intercepted by American privateers ; but he reached 
Sandy Hook a month earlier than the day that Clinton 
and Cornwallis started from Charleston ; and he out- 
strij)pcd by a fortnight Lord Howe's fleet, which, for 
operations of the nature that the brothers had in view, 
was not less important than his own army. 

The British troops were put ashore on Staten Island, 

^ Annual Register for 1776; chapter v. of the "History of Europe.'* 
The places named in this account of the New York and New Jersey cam- 
paign may be found in a map at the end of the volume, adapted from sev- 
eral plans in the Atlas belonging to Marshall's Life of Washington. 

2 Burke to Rockingham ; May 4, 1776. 


which was free of access, inasmuch as it had not been 
included in Washington's scheme of defence. They were 
received with an ovation ; for a number of local Tories 
got together to celebrate the occasion by a bonfire, 
which they fed with forty pounds' worth of Continental 
paper-money, ''damning the Congress, and saying they 
would have nothing more to do with it." ^ Loyalists 
flocked in from the main-land as soon as news of the 
disembarkation was noised abroad. Sixty men, of whom 
some carried muskets, came over from the Jerseys, and 
announced that five hundred more would follow. They 
expressed themselves as very anxious for the arrival of 
the Admiral with offers of peace ; but they declared it 
as their opinion' that quiet would never be restored 
until the rebels had been soundly beaten. Howe had 
found Tryon, the Governor of New York, expecting him 
at Sandy Hook on board a vessel, from the deck of 
which, during a twelvemonth past, he had done his best 
to administer his province for the advantage of the 
Crown. ^ Tryon now gave the English Commander-in 
Chief very accurate intelligence with regard to the 
numbers and disposition of the Republican forces. The 
Governor of New York had every reason to hate the 
Revolution. It had put a stop to a course of proceed- 
ings enormously lucrative to himself ; of a sort which 
was customary then, but in which no administrator of 
a British colony would now venture to engage without 
certain ruin to his career.^ Tryon was reckoned the 
ablest of the Royal deputies in America ; and he cer- 
tainly was a crafty and, (whenever he got the chance,) 

^ Letter from Staten Island ; July 8, 1776. 

2 Despatch of General Howe ; published in the Gentleman's Magazine 
for August 1 776. 

^"The Tryons came late in June. They were taken to the Schuyler 
country-place after some gala-making at Albany. Saratoga was looking 
its loveliest. Here Mrs. Tryon stayed while the Governor and his host 
were off on one of the land-purchasing expeditions which none of the 
colonial governors were known to neglect. Vast purchases were made. 
Governor Tryon acted as agent for a number of foreign noblemen. His 
fees alone amounted to 22,000 /. * A good summer's work,' Philip Schuy- 
ler wrote," Metnoirs of Catherine Schuyler; chapter viii. 


a very cruel vindicator of what he regarded as the Royal 
interests. No one else in King George's employment, 
from first to last, did so much injury to the cause of the 
master whom he served. 

In 1779, when Tryon's rancour as an ex-Governor 
had had three years to cool, he obtained command of 
an expedition, made a descent upon the New England 
coasts, and laid town and country waste ; not in the 
hope of subduing, but for the avowed object of punish- 
ing, the people of Connecticut. Wherever Tryon's 
soldiers landed, they never re-embarked without leaving 
misery and desolation behind them. They plundered 
New Haven. They plundered Fairfield, and then set it 
on fire. Two Kj)iscopal churches, and four belonging 
to other denominations, perished in the flames. From 
Fairfield they went on to Norwalk, and burned the little 
sea-port, with every building appropriated to Divine 
worship. The story of these proceedings was told, with 
damning fidelity and impartiality, by Mr. Justice Jones, 
— an eminent Judge of New \'()rk Province, firm and 
devoted in his loyalty to the Crown. ** Upon the sack- 
ing of the town of New Haven in Connecticut by Gen- 
eral Tryon in June 1779, Yale College, situate at that 
place, was plundered of a library consisting of many 
thousand books which had been collecting for very near 
a hundred years, with many curious and valuable manu- 
scripts ; besides a selection of well-chosen books, a 
present to that seminary from the late Dean Berkeley, 
afterwards I^ishop of Cloyne, in Ireland, and known by 
the name of The Dean's Library. In the same month, 
upon plundering and burning the town of Norwalk, in 
the same colony, under the orders of the same General, 
a most elegant, large, beautiful, and well-collected 
library, an heirloom which had for safety been removed 
to Norwalk, was pillaged, carried to New York, and 
disposed of by the thieves in the same manner as those 
plundered in New York had been before disposed of. 
All this was done with impunity, publicity, and openly. 
No punishment was ever inflicted upon the plunder- 


crs.*'^ Sir Henry Clinton, then Commander-in-Chief in 
America, was deeply offended at the Royal troops having 
been employed for such a purpose. But he was debarred 
from animadverting on subordinate offenders, or from 
protesting officially against Tryon's action, when once 
he had entrusted the honour of the British army to one 
who had been so indifferent a guardian of his own. 

Staten Island, which was somewhat larger than Bute, 
easily held the Royal army ; but the Jersey Whigs had 
been provident enough to transport all the sheep and 
cattle across the channel. The market afforded the 
British soldiers nothing besides pickled pork, not so 
different from their own salt pork that they cared to 
pay sevenpence a pound for it ; and there were no 
vegetables even for generals. Long-boats and launches, 
manned from the crews of the Royal frigates which had 
convoyed the troop-ships from Halifax, scoured the 
coasts of New York Bay, and ascended the North River 
for many miles above the city. But George Clinton, the 
American officer entrusted with the care of the New 
York Highlands, had posted strong parties at all the 
landing-places, and had warned the farmers to drive 
their flocks and herds up-country of an evening ; so 
that the British foragers took very little, and that little 
mostly from their friends. Their largest capture con- 
sisted in live-stock, belonging to a partisan of the Royal 
cause who accompanied them as guide; and they pil- 
laged and burned a house high up the stream, in the 
neighbourhood of Fort Montgomery, where Clinton was 
quartered. " Commander Wallace," (so that General 
reported,) ** headed the party who committed this little 
robbery. His share of the plunder was a handker- 
chief full of salad, and a pig so poor that a crow would 
scarcely deign to eat it. Another officer got a pot of 

^ History of New York Province during the Revolutionary War, by 
the Honourable Thomas Jones, Justice of the Supreme Court of the Prov- 
ince; Vol. I. chapter 7. Judge Jones manfully declared that to rob and 
destroy defenceless, unfortified towns " was not a method of conciliating 
the deluded." 



jelly, and six bottles of castor oil. We thought the 
owner so poor as not to need protection ; and he was a 
noted Tory as well." ^ 

The region which became the scene of the approach- 
ing campaign was of singular conformation, and pre- 
sented, to the General responsible for repelling an 
invader, problems, both political and military, which 
may fairly be said to have been incapable of satisfac- 
tory solution. The city of New York, then containing 
twenty-two thousand inhabitants, and covering with its 
streets and houses about six hundred acres, lay at the 
southern end of Manhattan Island, which was an island 
only in the same sense as the Isle of Thanet. It was in 
fact a peninsula some fourteen miles long, and nowhere 
more than two miles broad. The North, or Hudson, 
River, as wide as Manhattan Island itself, skirted it on 
the west ; and it was watered along the other flank by 
the Haerlem River, and by a creek which went by the 
name of the East River. This creek, a mile across, 
separated the promontory where the city stood from 
Long Island ; which extended almost due east for near 
a hundred and twenty miles into the Atlantic Ocean. 
It was a tract of land equal in superficial extent to 
Somersetshire, and parts of it were as fertile and attrac- 
tive as a pleasant English county. The resemblance is 
acknowledged and cherished by New Yorkers who have 
such an excess of leisure as to be able to spare one 
morning in the week for recreation. Long Island, with 
its grass-clad hills, and its autumn woods for a back- 
ground in the landscape, has long been their favourite 
country for fox hunting. That institution is nowhere 
more expensively organised, and more replete with the 
excitement of danger ; for an endless succession of 
high timber fences reminds the sportsman rather of the 
Roman Campagna than of a Warwickshire or Leices- 
tershire pasture. Fox hunting is no novelty in that 

1 Public Papers of George Clinton ; Published by the State of New 
York, 1899. Letter from the same officer, of July 1776, in the American 


district. Years before the Revolution broke out a pro* 
vincial satirist, in bad verse, had expressed wonder 
that it should require so many dogs and men to kill an 
animal, which itself made no great matter of killing a 
score of fowls in a night. The foxes on Long Island 
did not starve, for the hen-roosts were exceptionally 
well stocked. The soil on the coast was rich, and the 
farmers prosperous ; possessing, as they did, famous 
orchards, cornland of good quality, and flocks and herds 
in abundance. After the island had been occupied by 
the British, an American foraging party carried off three 
thousand sheep, and four hundred horned cattle, as the 
produce of a single raid. In the summer of 1776, how- 
ever, the Revolutionary Government hesitated to treat 
Long Island like Staten Island by confiscating, and 
removing, the live-stock. That policy, applied on such 
a vast scale, would have been barbarous, and indeed 
impracticable ; for the inhabitants, very generally, were 
faithful, and by no means passive, adherents of the 
Crown. Their attitude had been so threatening that, 
in January, Congress had meditated sending a powerful 
force to keep them in awe ; and, shortly before Howe 
appeared at Sandy Point, a number of them took arms 
for the King, and retired to forests and morasses where 
the Continental soldiers, whom Washington sent in 
pursuit of them, were unable, and probably not very 
desirous, to follow.^ 

" Long Island," (a leading patriot declared,) ** has the 
greatest proportion of Tories, both of its own growth, 
and of adventitious ones, of any part of this colony." 
The island belonged to the province of New York ; and 
the political condition of that province had a material 
influence upon the military operations which were now 
imminent. A correspondent of a Whig newspaper in 
London, writing from New York in January 1776, com- 
puted that the colony contained about two hundred 
thousand people, and that forty thousand of them were 
able to bear arms. Two thousand of these, at the most, 
^ Washington's letters of January 23, May 21, and June 28, 1776. 


might be counted as lukewarm, or actively opposed to 
the Revolution ; which left thirty-eight thousand fight- 
ing men heartily devoted to the American cause. So 
ran the story as dressed up for the readers of a party 
journal ; but New York was in fact a stronghold of the 
Crown, and contained more Loyalists than any other 
among the thirteen provinces. " The inhabitants," said 
an officer of the Continental army, ** promise us three 
thousand of City mihtia ; but we do not believe we shall 
see half so many. If the strength of the Whigs be a 
match for the Tories, it is as much as we shall ever 
experience in our favour." ^ That was the case with the 
city ; and it was the same in smaller towns, and through- 
out the more thickly settled agricultural districts in 
the southeast of the colony. Halfway through July a 
partisan of the Revolution stated that in the county 
where he lived, which was less Tory than most, one 
hundred militiamen out of four hundred had already 
been disarmed on account of their Royalist proclivities ; 
and he unsparingly condemned the folly of bringing out 
persons to oppose an invading army which they were 
daily seeking opportunities to join.^ Join it they did, in 
great numbers, and of all sorts; from the de Lanceys, 
a family which furnished Great Britain with two gen- 
erations ot capable military officers, down to citizens of 
a somewhat poor type who loved their own skins better 
than any political cause, and who accordingly attached 
themselves to the party which had the least need of 
their services as soldiers.^ 

Loyalism, all the province of New York over, was 
fashionable in every rank ; and those who go counter to 

^Colonel Jedediah Huntington to Governor Trumbull; Camp at New 
York, June 6, 1776. 

^ Egbert Benson to the New York Convention ; July 1776. 

^ "I have examined the prisoners," (General Greene reported on one 
occasion,) " and find them ignorant cowardly fellows. Two are tailors, 
and the other two common labourers. They candidly confess that they set 
off for Staten Island, not with any intention of joining the enemy, but to 
get out of the way of fighting here. It was reported that they were to go 
into the Northern Army, and that almost all who went there died, or were 
killed. The prospect was so shocking to their grandmothers and aunts 


fashion, where politics are at fever-heat, are apt to find 
their position very disagreeable in good society, and 
quite unendurable in humbler and rougher circles. A 
farmer complained to the Committee of Safety that, 
when attending a cattle-mart, he had been much abused 
and ill-treated because he was a Whig. His cockade 
was snatched from his hat, and trodden on ; his com- 
panion, a Dutchman who was a staunch Republican, 
had his hair pulled on account of his opinions ; and the 
crowd grew still more mischievous when a loyal tavern- 
keeper had served out some fresh lime punch, of which 
the Whigs got none. The schoolmaster at Rye, on the 
coast opposite Long Island, had lived there in peace for 
fourteen years, saving money, and keeping on good 
terms with his neighbours, until he aroused their antip- 
athies by arguing in favour of the Revolution. On the 
pretext that he had lent money to a person who kept a 
disorderly tavern, he was committed to prison ; and, 
while he lay there, the townsfolk broke open his house, 
and robbed him of twenty pounds without any explana- 
tion, and of three hundred more on the pretence of tak- 
ing bail.^ The poor man admitted, in a most significant 
sentence, that *' he alone was a real friend to America 
out of all the foolish and simple town of Rye." The 
children and the ladies, as always, were uncompromising 
politicians. An early, if not the first, protest against 
the assertion of national independence was made by 
some schoolboys who unfurled the Royal colours on a 
day appointed by Congress for solemn fasting and 
humiliation. The Governor of New Jersey informed 

that they persuaded them to run away. Never did I see fellows more 
frightened. They wept like a parcel of children. They don't appear 
acquainted with any public matter. They have been Toryish, I fancy 
not from principle, but from its being the prevailing sentiment in the 

^ The schoolmaster named, as the chief instigators, " that arch-Tory and 
enemy to his country Timothy Wetmore, who has and does yet keep up the 
spirit of Toryism in Rye, he being their Grand Moloch whom they adore 
and worship; and a vile woman whose house is frequented only by per- 
sons who discourse about the hanging of leading gentlemen who stand 
gloriously for their country." 


Washington that six or seven women had come over to 
that province from New York. " Though they appear to 
be Whigs, they have a number of stories to tell which 
discourage the weaker part of our inhabitants. The sex 
are mistresses of infinite craft and subtlety, and I never 
read of a great politician who did not employ petticoats 
to accomplish his designs. Certain it is that the great- 
est politician on record, (I mean the Devil,) applied 
himself to a female agent to involve mankind in sin and 

Most of the rich people in New York, (and the rich 
were many,) declared themselves more or less openly 
against the Revolution. Enough among the leading 
citizens to form a fair-sized viceregal court lived with 
Tryon on his ship in the harbour. Others remained in 
their town mansions, taking care that his behests were 
obeyed as if he were still at Government House ; ^ send- 
ing information, and assurances of fidelity, to General 
Howe ; and never losing an opportunity of giving their 
bad word to the Republic. One ingenious aristocrat 
put about a theory that Washington was for ever march- 
ing and counter-marching his troops through the city, 
like the manager of a second-rate theatre, in order to 
make a great show of a few men ; which was all the more 
objectionable, (it was added,) because the privates of the 
Continental army were so unlike soldiers, and the officers 
bore so distant a resemblance to gentlemen, that no per- 
son of taste would care to see them pass his door twice. 
Another promised that the King's standard should float 
on the public buildings of New York before the King's 
birthday, even if he himself had to hoist it with his own 
hands ; whispered it about that matters would mend 
when a dozen persons whom he could name in the town 
of Albany had been hanged ; " and further endeavoured 
by artful insinuations to depreciate the Continental cur- 
rency." More practical members of the same party 

1 "The city seems to be entirely under the government of Tryon, and 
the captain of the man-of-war." Washington to Joseph Reed; January 
31, 1776. 


took a shorter path towards a similar end, and counter- 
feited the notes issued by the State Conventions of 
Massachusetts and Connecticut. The individuals, who 
had been placed on a suspected list as enemies of 
America, were of many occupations, and every diversity 
of outward appearance; — a licensed victualler, with no 
sign-board, four doors from the corner of Broadway ; a 
fat man in a blue coat ; a short thick man in a white 
coat ; a silversmith who had lately been ridden on a rail ; 
two young gentlemen, who shut themselves up at home, 
and refused to train ; a son that threatened his father 
with the gallows if he would not sign a paper against a 
Congress or a Committee ; a shoemaker living next to 
the sign of the Buck, who talked too freely to his jour- 
neyman, questioning the right of Congress to raise 
soldiers, and wishing, with very strong asseverations, 
that all the townsmen of New York were as big Tories 
as the Mayor. That constituted an exacting standard 
of Loyalism ; for the Mayor was a partisan who shrank 
from nothing. Very confidential messages had long 
been passing between his parlour in the city, and Gov- 
ernor Tryon's cabin on board the Royal cruiser in the 
Bay. Arrangements were made to blow up the powder 
magazines, and to kidnap Washington and his principal 
officers. One of the General's own bodyguards had 
been suborned to do the blackest part of the business ; 
and the man was said to have accomplices among his 
companions. It would have required a numerous, and a 
very determined, gang of traitors to carry off George 
Washington alive and against his will; but all who were 
in the secret perfectly well understood what the seizing 
and securing the person, whether of a king in his palace, 
or of a Commander-in-Chief in the midst of his army, 
always meant, and always will mean. That hackneyed 
euphemism for assassination never saves the neck of an 
obscure hireling who has the courage of his wickedness ; 
although it may salve the conscience, and possibly screen 
the reputation, of more high-placed conspirators. The 
plot was detected ; the Mayor was thrown into gaol ; the 


guilty soldier was tried by court-martial, and executed in 
a field near the Bowery ; and Washington, who seldom 
let slip an opportunity of instilling a moral lesson into 
his younger comrades, earnestly cautioned the troops 
" to avoid lewd women, who, by the confession of this 
poor criminal, first led him into practices which ended 
in an untimely and ignominious death." ^ 

So deeply and equally was opinion divided all through 
this tract of country which Washington had undertaken 
to maintain in obedience to the Revolutionary Govern- 
ment, and to protect against the attack of an army 
larger and better than his own. During an interview at 
Philadelphia with the Committee, appointed by Congress 
to gather his view on the military necessities of the 
nation, he had emphatically declared that success was 
all but impossible unless the Americans were to the 
English in a proportion of two to one. And now, for 
the combined purpose of holding in check a disaffected 
population within his Hues, and of keeping the British 
outside them, he had at his disposal a force which, as 
compared with the enemy, stood in the proportion of 
only two to three. Nor could he shut his eyes to a con- 
tingency, exceedingly likely to occur, under which the 
circumference of those lines would be enlarged to an 
extent altogether beyond his means for defending them. 
If Admiral Howe's ships could silence, or slip past, the 
outer batteries, they might ascend the East River on the 
left, and the North River on the right, of the American 
position ; General Howe might, in that case, land on the 
peninsula of Manhattan at any spot which he preferred 
along thirty miles of open coast ; and, if once General 
Howe disembarked his troops in rear of the city, New York 
must fall without a blow. Nor was that all. The case, 
in the end, would not be less grave even if Lord Howe 
failed to force a passage up the rivers, and was obliged 
to confine himself to the Bay. To defend New York it 

1 The material of the last three paragraphs is derived from many sources ; 
but principally from the American Archives of the year 1776, from Wash- 
ington's Letters, and from Sabine's Loyalists of the American Revolution, 


was absolutely necessary to hold the heights of Brooklyn 
opposite the city, which commanded New York within 
easy artillery fire, just as Bunker's Hill commanded 
Boston ; ^ and the heights of Brooklyn were on Long 
Island, whither General Howe might transport all his 
troops at pleasure. There he would find a magnificent 
base of operations ; abundant provisions ; inexhaustible 
forage ; and farmers so much attached to the Crown 
that they would almost have been prepared to feed his 
men and horses for nothing, and were still more ready 
to sell him their produce at war prices. To dispute the 
possession of Long Island against Howe's whole army, 
Washington could only afford to spare a portion of the 
American force ; and that portion, whether greater or 
smaller, if once beaten was almost certainly lost; for 
Brooklyn was separated from New York by a deep 
navigable channel of salt water. Should battle be joined 
on Long Island, the American generals might be never 
so skilful; but the most consummate tactics on their 
part, (if such indeed were forthcoming,) could do little 
to obviate the defects of a hopeless strategical situation. 
With this prospect before them, some Americans held 
that the most prudent, as well as the most truly coura- 
geous, policy would be to destroy the supplies in Long 
Island ; to sacrifice New York ; and to withdraw the 
Revolutionary army, in unbroken strength, to a care- 
fully selected position in the interior of the country. 
That opinion, however, was held by very few ; and those 
few were under no temptation to proclaim it. Nine out 
of ten members of Congress, and ninety-nine out of a 
hundred among the partisans who had elected them, 
were for fighting at all hazards, and as far to the front 
as possible. The strategy of withdrawal appeared posi- 
tively despicable to an average Whig politician at Phila- 

1 Those are the words employed by Mr. Charles Francis Adams, the 
younger, in his article on the Battle of Long Island. Military criticisms 
by Mr. Adams are those of a born historian, who has served through a 
great war, and has had plenty of time since to think over the lessons which 
his old campaigns taught him. 


delphia, especially to one who hailed from a district 
within the region which was the seat of war. " Is New 
York to be evacuated, as well as Long Island, without 
fighting? Or will our army, like the Romans of old, 
attack the enemy wherever they find them, knowing 
that death is to be chosen rather than life upon the 
terms our enemies will suffer us to hold it ? " Those ex- 
pressions were employed by a New York representative, 
whose desperate patriotism was confessedly stimulated 
by the reflection that delegates from a State, which had 
been conquered by the British, could not hope any 
longer to be repaid their expenses at Philadelphia.^ 

During this period of his career Washington con- 
sidered himself as the servant of Congress, bound " im- 
plicitly to obey their orders with a scrupulous exact- 
ness," ^ even at the risk of his military reputation. He 
did not hold out to his employers any definite assurance 
of victory ; nor on the other hand did he dissuade them 
from imposing on his acceptance a plan of campaign 
based on the retention of New York city. He confined 
himself to promising them his utmost exertions under 
every disadvantage. Though the appeal, (he owned,) 
might not terminate so happily as could be wished, yet 
he trusted that any advantage the enemy might gain 
would cost them dear. This much he said ; and, from 
that time forward, he held his peace. He never, either 
then or thereafter, pleaded that he had acted under com- 
pulsion, or endeavoured to shift upon others his share 
of responsibility for the misfortunes which befell the 
army. His silence in the face of criticism was complete 
and lifelong. Some of Washington's admirers have 
done their best to make out a case for him by arguing 

^ Letter from a member of Congress for New York ; August lo, 1776. 

^ Those were Washington's words ; and that was the interpretation put 
upon his conduct by Charles Lee, who wrote thus to Gates : " The Con- 
gress seems to stumble at every step ; I do not mean one or two of the 
cattle, but the whole stable. I have been very free in delivering my 
opinion to 'em. General Washington is much to blame in not menacing 
'em with resignation, unless they refrain from unhinging the army with 
their absurd interference." 


that, if he had not detained the British all through the 
autumn within a few miles of the sea-coast, Howe would 
have pushed on to Albany, taken Gates in the rear, 
crushed him up against Carleton, and so have finished 
the war before ever the year ended ; but nothing of all 
this was uttered, or written, by Washington. The world 
does not know, and never will know, whether he followed 
his own unbiassed judgement of what was the least 
ruinous expedient in an almost impossible situation ; or 
whether he conformed reluctantly to the will of his offi- 
cial superiors ; or whether, (for he was a man like 
others,) he could not bear to disappoint the belief of his 
countrymen that the General who had re-conquered 
Boston would succeed in retaining New York. In any 
case it may safely be affirmed that, if Washington aimed 
at preserving the city, he was trying for an impossibility ; 
and that, if his object was to prevent the British from 
reaching Albany, he should have waited for them further 
up the Hudson, on ground carefully reconnoitred and 
prepared, and with an army which had not been dimin- 
ished and demoralised by a series of unsuccessful engage- 
ments. The fact remains that in August 1776 he placed, 
and kept, his troops in a position where they were certain 
to be defeated, and where, when defeated, they would 
most probably be surrounded and destroyed. 

It soon became evident that all hope of confining the 
British to a frontal attack upon the southern extremity 
of the New York peninsula would have to be abandoned. 
Lord Howe had sailed from Spithead before the middle 
of May; although tidings of his arrival in America did 
not reach England until the end of September. The 
Opposition journalists in London were furious at what 
they suspected to be a wilful suppression of important 
news, and complained that nothing more was published 
about Howe's movements than if he were a mandarin, 
commanding a fleet of junks in the service of the Em- 
peror of China. They calculated the millions of pounds 
that had been spent since the year opened, and compared 


them with the very minute amount of satisfaction and 
amusement which, as a reader of the newspapers, the 
taxpayer had obtained for his money .^ But in truth 
the fault lay with the east wind, which had delayed 
the American packet ; and the continued silence of the 
London Gazette was not chargeable to the Government 
censor, nor to any sloth on the part of the British 
admiral. Lord Howe had been prompt enough. He 
touched at Halifax on the first of July ; and, on the 
twelfth, Washington informed Congress that a ship of 
war, flying St. George's flag at her foretop-mast-head, 
had that morning appeared at Sandy Hook, and had 
been received with a general salute from all the Royal 
vessels which lay in the harbour. 

On his way to the south Lord Howe met the Boston 
squadron, retiring to Halifax with one shot-hole in the 
upper works of the flag-ship ; and the Commodore ex- 
plained that he was shifting his quarters from Nantasket 
Road because he had been annoyed by batteries. Lord 
Howe quietly observed that in the last war he, for his 
part, sought batteries instead of avoiding them.^ It was 
a habit which he never lost. In the afternoon of his 
arrival off Staten Island two men-of-war, with a favour- 
able breeze and on a flowing tide, carrying breastworks 
of sand-bags on deck as a protection against rifle-bullets, 
ran past the American works. They took their station 
five-and-thirty miles above New York, in Haverstraw Bay, 
where the Hudson River was more than a league across. 
There they remained, as little damaged as if they were 
lying opposite Gravesend after a peaceful journey up 
the Thames from the Nore, and, (to all appearance,) 

^ On September 20, 1776, the London Evening Post thus addressed the 
Ministry: " Lord Howe sailed from St. Helens on the 12th May last, with 
a considerable fleet. This is 139 days ago, or to-morrow will be 20 weeks, 
and you have never given any account whatsoever about his Lordship or 
his fleet, either good, bad, or indifferent. Notwithstanding this dead silence, 
you have had this year the fingering of fifteen millions of the people's 
money, without a shilling of it being left, or without a single act being done 
by either the land, or sea, department but what are disgraceful to this un- 
happy kingdom." 

^ The Last Journals of Horace Walpole. 


in quite as secure a berth. Their awnings were spread 
against the summer sun ; and their boats ranged to and 
fro on the current, taking the soundings, and watching 
an opportunity for plunder. To those who looked into 
the future it was evident that the city of New York was 
as good as taken ; and the comfort of farmers in the 
provincial districts was already destroyed. Three regi- 
ments of local militia were called out to man the forts ; 
and smaller detachments bivouacked at frequent intervals 
along the banks. The service was of such a nature that 
night was no less toilsome, and more anxious, than the 
day. There was brief and broken sleep for the minute- 
men, with nothing to occupy their waking thoughts 
except a mental picture of the most noble crop, which 
had ripened within their life-time, rotting on the stalks.^ 
Their leaders also had a sacrifice to make, the greatness 
of which it would not be easy to appraise in money. 
General George Clinton could not spare the time for 
a journey to Philadelphia in order to affix his name, as a 
New York delegate, to the Declaration of Independence ; 
and the case of Colonel Robert Livingston was harder 
still, for he had been one of the five members who drafted 
the document which he was now too busy to sign. 

There was a project much nearer Lord Howe's heart 
than that of exchanging cannon-shots with those whom 
he regarded as his injured, rather than his misguided 
and erring, fellow-countrymen. Old quartermasters, 
who had sailed with him all the world over, professed to 
know when a general action was impending by ** Black 
Dick " being seen to smile ; but the admiral, at no time 
of his life, was ever so keen to fight Frenchmen as he 

^ " The Men turn out of their Harvest Fields to defend their Country 
with surprizing Alacrity. The absence of so many of them, however, at 
this Time, when their Grain is perishing for want of the Sickle, will greatly 
distress the Country. I wish a less number might answer the Purpose." 
Clinton to Washington ; July 15, 1776. 

The Americans after a while extemporised a small squadron of armed 
galleys, and a couple of fire-ships, which at length made Haverstraw Bay a 
hot anchorage for Englishmen. The two men-of-war dropped down the 
river, and rejoined their fleet on the i8th August, having remained for the 
space of five weeks in the heart of the enemy's country. 


now was eager to make friends of the colonists. He 
had inherited the title of a gallant brother, more beloved 
by Americans, not indeed than Lord Chatham, but than 
any Englishman of eminence who had ever set his foot 
on American soil. He himself had been prime mover in 
the last attempt made, before Benjamin Franklin took 
his departure from Europe, to draw the mother-country 
and her revolted provinces once more together. Lord 
Howe's advent as a pacificator, and a supposed plenipo- 
tentiary, was heralded by the sanguine anticipations of 
all partisans of peace whom he left behind him in 
London. The Lord Mayor and Common Council, sitting 
in the Guildhall, had wished him well in his character of 
negotiator, and had prayed the Government to publish 
a specification of the powers which he carried with him, 
in order that the King's benevolent intentions might not 
be misrepresented by demagogues in the colonies who 
desired to keep the quarrel open. Private persons wrote 
eagerly and often, urging their correspondents in 
America to trust the British Government, and to make 
much of its emissary. *' Do, my dear friend," (so one 
such letter ran,) "let me persuade you that Lord Howe 
goes to America as a mediator, and not a destroyer. He 
has declared he had rather meet you, and that immedi- 
ately on his arrival, in the wide field of argument, than 
in the chosen ground of battle." ^ In America there was 
every disposition to treat Lord Howe with respect, and 
a widespread belief that the offers which he brought 
were of a nature to be acceptable. Pamphleteers of the 
Revolutionary party, if they cared to retain their readers, 
were obliged to speak gently both of him and of his 
mission. The most uncivil of all these writers felt him- 
self bound to promise that the colonists would be as 
courteous at the Council Board as they were valiant in 
the field; and that, if agreement proved impossible, the 
British Commissioners should be bowed out genteelly, 

^ Dennis de Berdt in London to Joseph Reed of Philadelphia ; May 3, 
1776. Mr. Reed was a trusted and valued informant of Lord Dartmouth, — 
as long as the colonist cared to write letters, or the peer ventured to re- 
ceive them. 


and not dismissed after the fashion in which Hanun the 
son of Nahash treated the messengers of David.^ 

As a first step towards the accomplishment of his 
amicable purpose, Lord Howe endeavoured to place him- 
self in communication with the American whose co-opera- 
tion he was especially anxious to secure. A letter for 
" George Washington Esquire " was sent to New York, 
under a flag of truce, and was returned unopened, never 
having got further than the guard-boat which lay off 
the landing-place at Castle Garden. A few days after- 
wards Colonel Paterson, the Adjutant General of the 
Royal army, obtained an interview with Washington, 
and handed to him an envelope bearing the same super- 
scription.2 Colonel Paterson, in obedience to his instruc- 
tions, addressed the American Commander-in-Chief as 
His Excellency, and assured him that Lord Howe and 
his brother did not mean to derogate from the respect 
or rank of General George Washington, and held his 
person and character in the highest esteem. Washing- 
ton, (so a story goes,) looked at the letter, and remarked 
that it must be for a planter of the name, residing in 
the State of Virginia, with whom he was acquainted, 
and to whom he would deliver it, with the seal unbroken, 
after the war was over. That part of the anecdote rests 
upon French tradition, and was probably manufactured 
on the banks of the Seine for the gratification of Pari- 
sian supper-tables. Washington's own account of the 
affair was marked by his customary gravity and preci- 
sion. He reported to Congress that, while he would not 
sacrifice essentials to punctilio, he had in this instance 
deemed it his duty towards his country to insist upon a 

^ A Watchman; Philadelphia, June 13, 1776. Other passages in the 
same production show the patriotism of the author to have been of a very 
pronounced type. " If I forget thee, Oh Lexington, let my right hand forget 
his cunning ! Yea, let my right finger forget how to pull the trigger ! " 
That was his style when he was writing solely to please himself. 

2 The actual address on this second letter was " George Washington 
Esquire, &c. &c. &c." Washington was earnestly entreated to believe 
that the magic symbols, which followed his name, implied every title of 
honour that he might desire to read into them. 


mark of respect which, as an individual, he would will 
ingly have waived. Congress, in return, complimented 
him for having acted with dignity becoming his station, 
and enjoined all other officers to follow his example, and 
receive no messages from the enemy but such as were 
directed to them in the characters they respectively sus- 
tained. The principle involved is clearly laid down in 
a despatch which Washington, on a previous and some- 
what similar occasion, had written to General Gage, as 
the commander of the British garrison in Boston. " You 
affect. Sir, to despise all rank not derived from the same 
source as your own. I cannot conceive one more hon- 
ourable than that which flows from the uncorrupted 
choice of a brave and free people, the purest source and 
original fountain of all power." That was news to such 
as Gage ; but the Howes were both of them born Whigs, 
who did not need to be indoctrinated with an obvious 
political truth, — as well as men of sense, who made a 
point of calling people by the names which they called 
themselves. It was noticed that Lord Howe, when 
conversing with Americans, spoke of the colonies as 
"States" ; and General Howe informed the Ministry at 
home that, if necessity arose for conducting negotiations 
about the exchange of prisoners and the treatment of 
wounded, he intended, since once the question had been 
started, always to give an American general his full 
military title. 

Lord Howe, in his cabin at sea, had composed a cir- 
cular letter to the Royal governors of the colonies, 
accompanied by a Declaration setting forth the nature 
of his authority as Commissioner from the King, together 
with the terms of reconciliation which the Cabinet had 
sanctioned. These documents were transmitted to 
Washington, who duly forwarded them to Congress. 
It at once became evident why the ministerial offers had 
been kept a secret from the London Corporation, and 
from all other communities which were guided by reason 
and good feeling ; for those offers amounted to nothing 
more than a bare promise of pardon and favour to all 


who should return to allegiance and assist in restoring 
public tranquillity. Congress forthwith printed the 
papers in full, with the object, (so their Resolution was 
worded,) that the good people of the United States might 
know the conditions of peace with the expectation of 
which the insidious Court of Great Britain had endeav- 
oured to amuse and disarm them, and that the few who 
had founded hopes on the justice or moderation of their 
late King might now at length be convinced that their 
valour alone could save their liberty.^ George Wash- 
ington took his share of the Royal clemency as a direct 
insult which he could not away with. His attitude re- 
calls to a reader of Beaumont and Fletcher the dialogue 
between a calumniated subject, and an estranged sov- 
ereign, in the stately drama of " The Maid's Tragedy." 

Melantius. Where I am clear, 

I will not take forgiveness of the gods, 

Much less of you. 
King. Nay, if you stand so stiff, 

I shall call back my mercy. 
Melantius. I want smoothness 

To thank a man for pardoning of a crime 

I never knew. 

The American Commander-in-Chief, in a printed letter, 
described Howe and his brother as nothing more than a 
couple of agents dispensing pardons to repentant sin- 
ners ; and he openly warned his soldiers not to heed a 
report, set about by designing persons, that the British 
admiral had brought with him propositions of peace. 
His own duty, (he told the army,) obliged him to declare 
that no propositions had been made ; but on the con- 
trary, from the best intelKgence which he could procure, 
the Americans might expect to be attacked as soon as 
the wind and tide should prove favourable. He hoped, 
therefore, that every man's mind and arms would be 

1 Resolution of Friday, July 19, 1776. On the 23rd July a Member of 
Congress wrote to Charles Lee from Philadephia : " The Tories are quiet, 
but very surly. Lord Howe's proclamation leaves them not a single fila- 
ment of their cobweb doctrine of reconciliation." 



prepared for action, in order to show the whole world 
that freemen contending on their own land were superior 
to any mercenaries on earth. ^ 

John Adams accused Lord Howe of pursuing a Mach- 
iavellian policy ; ^ but the admiral was a straightforward 
sailor, who resembled the celebrated Italian statesman 
in one point only. Lord Howe's patriotism embraced 
all his countrymen, in whatever part of the world their 
fortune had fixed them ; and he was now striving to 
restore amity and concord between two great sections 
of the British people as strenuously as ever Machiavelli 
had laboured, in his own very peculiar fashion, for the 
unity of Italy. Even after the armies had met, and the 
English had gained a victory. Lord Howe persevered in 
his attempt to settle the dispute by pacific methods. 
He adopted as an intermediary the first American gen- 
eral who was taken prisoner in battle. That general 
was the good-hearted, but loose-tongued and feather- 
headed, Sullivan ; — an instrument well suited to an 
honourable but visionary undertaking. Sullivan pre- 
sented himself before Congress with no credentials ; 
carrying no written proposals from the British Commis- 
sioners ; and provided with nothing more definite than 
certain hazy recollections which he had brought away 
from a conversation with Lord Howe. No notes of that 
conversation were in existence, for the very sufficient 
reason that none had been taken ; nor had a minute 
embodying the conclusions, at which the two parties 
arrived, been agreed upon between them. 

From such offhand diplomacy nothing but confusion 
and scandal could come. Sullivan's appearance struck 
dismay into every patriot acute enough to perceive that 
the only practical consequence of listening to those 
shadowy overtures must be to throw upon Congress the 
unpopularity of prolonging the war. " Oh the decoy- 
duck ! " exclaimed John Adams. " Would that the first 
bullet from the enemy had passed through his brain ! " 

1 Washington to Gates ; July 19, 1776. General Order of August 20, 
* John Adams to Mrs. Adams; September 8, 1776. 


Lord Howe would scarcely have been better pleased 
than Adams if he had been present when Sullivan told 
his story. That impulsive orator began by confiding to 
all the members of Congress, and any other citizen 
who cared to listen in the gallery, that the British 
admiral maintained the extreme colonial opinion, and 
denied the right of Parliament to tax America. He 
then proceeded to deliver what he called his verbal 
message ; and, (since his hearers were very much better 
men of business than himself,) he was requested to 
put it on paper. On paper the message was vague and 
illusory, — insinuating a conception of Lord Howe's 
powers, and of the views held by the British Ministry, 
so hopeful as to be positively dishonest ; but it was the 
dishonesty of well-intentioned, inaccurate men, who con- 
trived to deceive themselves. Howe, in his zeal for 
peace, had promised more than he could perform ; and 
Sullivan had persuaded himself to remember a great 
deal more than Howe had said. The most substantial 
part of the communication was to the effect that the 
British Commissioner was forbidden to recognise the 
authority, or even the official existence, of Congress ; 
but that he would most gladly have a conference with 
some of the members whom he would consider, for the 
present, only as private gentlemen. Congress, as be- 
came it, resolved that it could not with propriety send 
any members to confer with his Lordship in their pri- 
vate characters ; but that, ever desirous of establishing 
peace on reasonable terms, it would despatch a commit- 
tee of its body to learn whether, under the powers which 
he possessed, he could treat with persons appointed to 
act on behalf of America. That resolution was passed 
on the fifth of September ; and next day Edward 
Rutledge of South Carolina, John Adams, and Ben- 
jamin Franklin were selected by ballot to serve on the 

To a lover of peace it might have seemed that a more 
promising choice than that of Franklin could hardly 
have been made. Up to the very moment that his 



trunks were packed for leaving England he had been 
engaged with Lord Howe in an honourable conspiracy 
to stop the war. The earliest letter that the admiral 
wrote to an American, after he arrived in American 
waters, was a greeting to his worthy friend, Benjamin 
Frankhn ; and in that letter Lord Howe represented 
himself as inspired by the hope that he might gratify 
the King's paternal solicitude by promoting the estab- 
lishment of a lasting union between Great Britain and 
the colonies. But already the colonist, to whom these 
amiable words were addressed, had no mind to resusci- 
tate the paternal and filial relation in what he hencefor- 
ward regarded as international, and not as colonial, 
politics. He was no longer the same Benjamin Franklin 
with whom the Whig nobleman had conversed in whis- 
pers over Miss Howe's chess-table. An American 
colonel, on a visit to the British flag-ship with a mes- 
sage from Washington, happened to be in attendance 
when Franklin's reply came to hand. According to the 
account given by this officer, Lord Howe's countenance, 
as he read onward, frequently exhibited marks of aston- 
ishment; and, when he had mastered the contents of 
the letter, he lamented that his old friend had expressed 
himself very warmly. Warm, indeed, the effusion was. 
Americans, (so Franklin wrote,) could not by any possi- 
bility even dream of submission to a Government which 
had burned their defenceless towns in the midst of win- 
ter ; had excited savages to massacre their farmers, and 
slaves to murder their planters ; and was even now 
bringing over legions of German hirelings to deluge 
their settlements with blood. *' Long did I endeavour, 
with unfeigned and unwearied zeal, to preserve from 
breaking that fine and noble China Vase, the British 
empire. Your Lordship may possibly remember the 
tears of joy which wet my cheek when, at your good 
sister's in London, you once gave me expectations that 
a reconciHation might soon take place. I had the mis- 
fortune to find those expectations disappointed, and to 
be treated as the cause of the mischief I was labouring 


to prevent. My consolation was that I retained the 
friendship of many wise and good men in that country ; 
and, among the rest, some share in the regard of Lord 

FrankHn and his brother Commissioners accepted the 
charge which Congress imposed on them ; although they 
had no hope, and little desire, that any very tangible 
result would ensue. There was yet more cause for 
despair than they knew of. Lord Howe's powers 
extended no further than the offer of a pardon ; and 
from all hope of pardon the Privy Council had expressly 
excepted John Adams by name. That formidable fact 
was unknown to Adams. He was not aware that, to the 
mind's eye of the British admiral, he would appear at 
the conference with a halter round his neck ; and yet 
for reasons, public and not personal, he repaired to that 
conference most unwillingly. Adams had been entirely 
unconvinced by the arguments put forward by Congress- 
men who were in favour of the negotiation. "Some," 
he wrote, " think it will occasion a delay of military 
operations ; which we much want. I am not of that 
mind. Some think it will clearly throw the odium of 
continuing this war on his Lordship and his master. I 
wish it may. Others think it will silence the Tories and 
establish the timid Whigs. I wish this also, but do not 
expect it. All these arguments, and twenty others as 
mighty, would not have convinced me of the necessity, 
propriety, or utility, if Congress had not determined on 
it. I was against it from first to last. All sides agreed 
in sending me. You will hear more of this embassy. 
It will be famous enough." ^ 

1 Lord Howe to Franklin ; on board the Eagle, June 20, 1776. 
Franklin to Lord Howe ; Philadelphia, July 20, 1776. Colonel Palfrey 
to President Hancock ; July 31, 1776. 

It is curious to observe the names of the transports which brought the 
British army across the ocean ; the Felicity, the Three Sisters, the Amity's 
Admonition, and the Good Intent. The First Grenadiers sailed in the 
Friendship, and the Sixty-fourth regiment in the Father's Goodwill. It is 
difficult to believe that these vessels were not specially re-christened for 
the voyage, and that Admiral Lord Howe had nothing to do with it. 

2 John Adams to James Warren ; Philadelphia, September 8, 1776. 


Franklin, who had been far from well, was once 
again in excellent case. When acting as commissioner 
to the Northern army he had felt his age for the first 
time ; and towards the end of May he came back from 
Canada an invalid. At one point on the route he did 
not expect to return alive, and addressed to his friends 
at home a communication which, for a valedictory 
epistle, was singularly cheerful ; ^ but before August 
he had cured himself by temperance, and by setting 
in practice those quaintly expressed theories of health 
which his observation had taught him, some scores of 
years before they became the truisms of medical practice. 
There was better travelling-ground between Philadel- 
phia and the British head-quarters in New York Bay, 
than among those wild and inhospitable regions which 
separated Albany from St. John's and Montreal ; and 
yet, as they drew near the scene of active hostilities, the 
three Committeemen found their journey not without 
its hardships. ** The taverns," wrote Adams, **were so 
full that we could with difficulty obtain entertainment. 
At Brunswick but one bed could be procured for Dr. 
Franklin and me, in a chamber little larger than the 
bed, without a chimney, and with one small window. 
The window was open, and I shut it close. * Oh,' says 
FrankHn, * don't shut the window. We shall be suffo- 
cated ! ' I answered, I was afraid of the evening air. 
Dr. Franklin replied : ' Open the window, and come to 
bed, and I will convince you. I believe you are not 
acquainted with my theory of colds.' Opening the 
window, and leaping into bed, I said I had read his 
letters to Dr. Cooper; but the theory was so little con- 
sistent with my experience that I thought it a paradox. 
However, I had so much curiosity to hear his reasons 
that I would run the risk of a cold." The Doctor then 

1 " I am here on my way to Canada, detained by the present state of 
the Lakes, in which the unthawed ice obstructs navigation. I begin to 
apprehend that I have undertaken a fatigue that, at my time of Hfe, may 
prove too much for me. So I sit down to write to a few friends by way 
of farewell." Franklin to Josiah Quincy ; Saratoga, April 15, 1776. 


began to harangue on the theme that catarrhs were 
usually produced by over-eating and stuffy rooms, and 
in the course of a few minutes sent himself and his 
bedfellow fast asleep.^ 

They both were in somewhat of a holiday humour. To 
these terribly overworked men the excursion presented 
the character of an agreeable jaunt. Except when they 
were travelling on public business, their unpaid and 
unassisted toil, — for at Philadelphia they had neither 
salary nor secretary, — seemed likely to allow them no 
rest on that side the grave ; or rather, in the event of 
their country being conquered, on that side the gibbet. 
They reached Amboy, at the mouth of the Raritan, on 
the eleventh September, and were rowed to Staten 
Island by the admiral's own boat's crew. Lord Howe, 
deeply disapproving, was privy to the fell intentions 
which his Government harboured towards one, at least, 
of the American Commissioners ; and he accordingly 
had sent across the water an English ofBcer, with an 
intimation that he might be retained in the American 
camp as a hostage for their safety. Adams and his 
colleagues exchanged a few words in private, and then 
requested this gentleman to return in their company to 
the British side of the channel. " We told the ofBcer," 
(so Adams wrote,) " that, if he held himself under our 
direction, he must go back with us. He bowed assent, 
and we all embarked in his Lordship's barge. As we 

1 During his last three years in London, Franklin, as if he had nothing 
else to think about, paid great attention to " the causes of colds or 
rheums." Much useful advice, and still more amusement, may be gathered 
from his letters to Doctor Samuel Cooper, to Benjamin Rush, and to 
Monsieur Dubourg ; as well as from his Preparatory Notes and Hints for 
writing a Paper concerning what is called Catching Cold. 

John Adams never forgot the night at New Brunswick. He heard the 
news of Franklin's death, when at last it came, the less inconsolably on 
learning that the Doctor had fallen a sacrifice to his own theory ; " having 
caught the violent cold, which finally choked him, by sitting for some 
hours at a window with the cold air blowing in upon him." Whichever 
of the two was right on this particular medical question, Adams undoubt- 
edly succeeded, (and it was not the least of his achievements,) in living 
for a good many more years than Franklin. 


approached the shore, his Lordship came down to the 
water's edge to receive us, and, looking at the officer, 
he said, * Gentlemen, you make me a very high compli- 
ment, and you may depend upon it, I will consider it as 
the most sacred of things.' We walked up to the house 
between lines of grenadiers, looking fierce as ten furies, 
and making all the grimaces, and gestures, and motions 
of their muskets which, (I suppose,) military etiquette 
requires, but which we neither understood nor re- 
garded." The house had been inhabited by soldiers, 
and was as dirty as a stable ; but Lord Howe had 
prepared a large handsome room with a carpet of 
moss and green sprigs, which made it '* not only whole- 
some, but romantically elegant ; " and there was a table 
spread with good bread, good claret, cold ham, tongues, 
and mutton. 

John Adams, if man ever did, knew the difference 
between play and work ; and he now wrote about trifles 
because the nature of his embassy forbade him to expect 
that he would find anything of solid political importance 
to record. The serious part of the business was over 
in a single interview. Lord Howe assured the three 
Congressmen that, before accepting the office of Com- 
missioner, he had stipulated for power to confer with 
any persons whom he should think proper. He had 
distinctly forewarned the British Government, (so he 
stated,) of his intention to meet ^n a friendly way pre- 
cisely those whom the Cabinet called rebels, because 
they were the men best acquainted with colonial griev- 
ances. This piece of information, set off by a few 
courteous flourishes, was the beginning and the end of 
what the Admiral had to say. The Americans, in return, 
represented to his Lordship that, since tie left London, 
Independence had been declared at Philadelphia with 
the full approbation of all the colonies ; that those colo- 
nies now considered themselves as States, and were 
settling, or had already settled, their forms of govern- 
ment accordingly ; and that it was not within the com- 
petence of Congress to agree on their behalf that they 


should revert to a condition of dependence upon the 
British Crown. Lord Howe replied that, such being 
the case, the situation was new, and that his instructions 
did not inform him how to meet the altered circum- 
stances. He admitted with regret that no accommoda- 
tion could take place, and announced the conference at 
an end.^ 

There are occasions when it is not easy to reconcile 
politeness with sincerity ; and the American envoys 
made no pretence of being credulous or pliable. A 
moment arrived, in the course of the parley, which 
seemed to call for an exchange of compliments. The 
Admiral was by nature reserved and saturnine ; ^ but 
there was one topic which lay very near his heart, and 
on which he was always ready to discourse. He accord- 
ingly now became profuse in expressions of gratitude 
to the State of Massachusetts for erecting a monument 
in Westminster Abbey to his elder brother, who had 
been killed at Ticonderoga in the French war. He 
esteemed, (he said,) that honour above all things in the 
world ; he felt for America as for a brother ; and, if 
America was overwhelmed, he should lament its ruin 
like a brother's loss. Franklin bowed and smiled, and, 
with a collected countenance, and some affectation of 
simplicity, answered that he and his colleagues would 
do their utmost endeavours to save his Lordship from 
that mortification. Somewhat earlier in the colloquy 

1 Besides the report made to Congress by the delegates, a clear account 
of the meeting with Lord Howe is given in letters from John Adams to 
Samuel. Samuel Adams, now Secretary to the Massachusetts Assembly, 
liked the notion of a conference as little as any one. " Your Secretary," 
John Adams wrote to President Warren, " will rip about this measure ; 
and well he may." But Samuel Adams, though hot, and even red-hot, 
against political opponents, was not captious in his judgements about his 
friends. He admitted the difficulties of the American commissioners, 
and heartily praised their conduct. Their sentiments and language, he 
said, were becoming the character they bore ; they managed with great 
dexterity ; they maintained the dignity of Congress ; and the indepen- 
dence of America stood thenceforward on a better footing than before. So 
he told John Adams, in a letter of September 30, 1776. 

2 Walpole called the Howes " those brave, silent brothers." LatX 
Journals; February 1775. 


the English Commissioner had defined his position by 
observing that he was not authorised to regard the 
gentlemen, with whom he had the honour to find him- 
self, as members of Congress, but only as private 
persons and British subjects. Adams answered quickly 
that he was ready to assume any personality which 
would be agreeable to his Lordship except that of a 
British subject ; and the Admiral thereupon turned to 
Franklin and Rutledge, and remarked that Mr. Adams 
was a decided character. Decided characters are apt 
to get their own way. Some years afterwards, when 
the Bostonian was a minister plenipotentiary at the 
Court of St. James's, Lord Howe showed that he had 
not forgotten the give and take of that historical con- 
versation on Staten Island. "At the ball on the 
Queen's birthnight," (John Adams wrote,) '* I was at a 
loss for the seats assigned to the foreign ambassadors 
and their ladies. Fortunately meeting Lord Howe at 
the door, I asked his Lordship where were the ambassa- 
dors' seats. His Lordship, with his usual politeness, and 
an unusual smile of good humour, pointed to the seats 
and said, * Aye ; now we must turn you away among 
the foreigners.' " 



The farce of negotiation had not been finally played 
out before public attention was diverted to the stern 
realities of war. General Howe took no part in this last 
attempt at a diplomatic settlement. The junior British 
Commissioner was already occupied over sharper and 
more practical methods for reducing the colonies to their 
allegiance. By the first of August his reinforcements be- 
gan to make their appearance ; and they were pouring in, 
at frequent intervals, during the three weeks that fol- 
lowed. The earliest to report themselves at head-quarters 
before New York were Clinton and Cornwallis from Caro- 
lina. Then came the fresh regiments from England, and 
two complete divisions of German auxiliaries. Sir Peter 
Parker's unlucky squadron soon followed, carrying some 
more Royal governors who had been ejected from their 
provinces, together with a small collection of loyal Vir- 
ginian militia, exhibiting every shade of colour, and known 
in Whig circles by the designation of Lord Dunmore's 
Own Ethiopians.^ From Governors downwards, all were 
very tired of being on ship-board. Even the Footguards, 
who always had the pick of everything, and certainly 
did not sail on the worst-found vessels, complained that 
their food had been bad, and the water putrid.^ The 

1 This spelling was adopted by the early colonists, and was in general 
use during the Revolutionary War. The American town is written as 
"Haerlem" in Marshall's Life of Washington, Philadelphia, 1807; and 
the city in Holland is so spelt in Dr. Watson's Philip the Second, pub- 
lished in 1779. 

2 A computation of Howe's army, made by an American patriot in 
August 1776, includes "Lord Dunmore's scrubby fleet, with negroes, 
Tories, &c. — 150 men." 

^ Letter in a London newspaper of October i, 1776 ; British Museum. 



Highlanders, for their part, professed to have no inten- 
tion of ever tempting the sea again, and had brought 
their churns and ploughs with them, in the expectation 
of settling down on the confiscated lands of the rebel 
farmers.^ Except that Staten Island did not pitch and 
roll, the army for the present was not more luxuriously 
circumstanced than during the voyage. The quarters 
were very close for such a multitude, and there were no 
provisions besides the remains of the abominable stores 
with which the contractors had sparingly stocked the 
transports. The situation, moreover, had become one of 
moral, as well as material, discomfort. Those battalions, 
which Howe brought with him from Halifax, had already 
outstayed their welcome as far as the islanders were con- 
cerned ; and the Hessians, on their arrival, found no wel- 
come at all. For the Royal troops had already adopted 
towards the civil population, irrespective of political 
opinion, a behaviour which, taking the war as a whole, 
did as rriuch as anything else to render impossible either 
the reconciliation, or the re-conquest, of the colonies. 
** They have eaten all the cattle, and are now killing and 
barrelling up all the horses they meet with. The Tories 
on the island are very ill-treated lately, so that the in- 
habitants, who at first were so pleasant, would now be 
willing to poison them. They take everything they 
choose, and no one has anything he can call his own." 
That was the condition of Staten Island towards the 
end of August. The inhabitants were eager to be rid 
of the soldiers ; and the soldiers were keen to go. All 
eyes were turned across the narrow channel towards the 
verdant shore of Long Island, where between four and 
five score thousand beeves were still grazing unslaugh- 
tered, and whither the King's servants were pressingly 
invited by a loyal people who had not yet learned by 
experience what a military occupation meant. 

If Livy had been the chronicler of that campaign, 
he would have had a story to tell after his own heart ; 
for the omens were appalling. A dreadful thunder- 

1 Letter from Staten Island ; August 1776. 


Storm broke over Washington's camp. "Three officers 
were struck dead instantly ; the points of their swords 
for several inches were melted, with a few silver dollars 
they had in their pockets." ^ Any competent soothsayer 
would have interpreted the portent as an indication that 
the weapons of the Republic would be shattered in war, 
and that its treasury would cease to pay in specie. The 
regimental officers, however, and the common men of 
the American army were in no desponding mood. The 
weather was fearfully hot ; but they took their duties 
coolly. One general reported to Washington that he 
was obliged to chase the soldiers from tree to tree, to 
prevent their lounging. A commander with reasonable 
foresight must have reflected that, if it was so difficult 
to drive them back to their drill from beneath the shade 
of the branches, it would be a still harder matter to get 
them from behind the shelter of the trunks on a day of 
battle. Minute-men and Continentals alike, they enjoyed 
the plenty which abounded, and the fun which was con- 
stantly on foot, within the city ; and contrasted their own 
jovial life with the short commons, and irksome inac- 
tivity, prevailing in the hostile cantonments on Staten 
Island. They were vastly amused by the exulting shouts 
with which the hungry British greeted the arrival of a 
canoe laden with cabbages, and hailed the unaccustomed 
spectacle of a live bullock being hoisted on land from on 
board a barge. The wilder spirits made a pastime of 
rowing themselves across the channel in order to give 
Howe's people a false alarm. It was a great diversion, 
(they declared,) to see the red-coats throwing away their 
powder, and wasting bullets on the trees. The young 
militiamen did well to snatch the delights of the passing 
hour ; for there were many grim months in store for 

The jubilant confidence, which overflowed among 
the lower ranks in the American army, was not shared 
by older and wiser citizens. Men of that class were 
resolute, but grave and anxious. " Sir," (so one of them 

* Letter in the American Archives of August 22, 1776. 


wrote to another,) " this will be the trying year. If 
possible they must be hindered from getting any foot- 
hold this season. If that can be done, I think the day 
will be our own, and we shall be for ever delivered from 
tyranny." ^ A trying year it was, and there were more 
such to follow ; but people, who have an immense and 
perilous task in front of them, sometimes obey a whole- 
some instinct when they school themselves to look 
no further than a twelvemonth ahead. As the crisis 
approached, Washington, who discerned the danger 
more clearly than he saw the way to meet it, was per- 
turbed far beyond his wont ; but he did not dishearten 
those around him by giving direct expression to his 
apprehensions. Evidence of his inward trouble must 
be sought in the exceptional character of the steps 
which he adopted, and in the intensity of his appeals 
to the patriotism of others. On the twelfth of August 
six-and-thirty British vessels entered the Bay, where 
near twice that number already were lying ; and next 
morning Washington packed up all his documents 
which bore upon politics, and sent them to Philadel- 
phia, in charge of a trustworthy field-officer, to be 
deposited in the custody of Congress. Four days after- 
wards he desired the State authorities to take measures 
for the removal of non-combatants. " When I con- 
sider," he wrote, '* that the city of New York will in all 
human probability very soon be the scene of a bloody 
conflict, I cannot but view the great numbers of 
women, children, and infirm persons remaining in it, 
with the most melancholy concern. When the men-of- 
war passed up the river, the shrieks and cries of these 
poor creatures, running every way with their children, 
were truly distressing, and I fear they will have an 
unhappy effect on the ears and minds of our young and 
inexperienced soldiery." ^ His own receipt for pre- 
paring the young and inexperienced to face danger 

1 Josiah Bartlett to John Langdon of Philadelphia. 

2 Washington to the President of Congress, August 13, 1776; to the 
New York Convention, August 1 7. 


and difficulty was to tell them the truth calmly, but 
forcibly and without disguise. " The hour," so he in- 
formed them, " is fast approaching on which the honour 
and success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding 
country, will depend. Remember, officers and soldiers, 
that you are freemen, fighting for the blessings of liberty ; 
that slavery will be your portion, and that of your pos- 
terity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men." 

That was one of a series of proclamations enforc- 
ing with ever increasing earnestness, and reiterating 
in the minutest particulars, the duties of officer and 
soldier on the eve of a battle, and in the heat of 
action. It is entered in the Order-book of the twenty- 
third August ; and by that time Howe was already in 
Long Island. At nine in the morning of the twenty- 
second, fifteen thousand men, and forty guns, were dis- 
embarked within the curve of Gravesend Bay, six 
or seven miles to the south of Brooklyn. English and 
Highlanders were the first on shore ; and then Count 
Von Donop's Jagers and Grenadiers were ferried across 
in large flat-boats, with muskets sloped and in column of 
march ; preserving the well-considered pomp of German 
discipline on that salt water which few of them had ever 
smelt until they attained manhood. The British lines 
were soon thronged by country-people wearing badges 
of loyalty ; cattle and sheep were driven in from the 
morasses and thickets ; supplies of every description 
reappeared from their hiding-places in great abundance ; 
and, very shortly afterwards, two more brigades of 
Hessians, under General von Heister, came over to 
Gravesend Bay, and raised the numbers of the invaders, 
present on Long Island, to twenty thousand rank and 
file. The American Commander-in-Chief, misinformed 
by his scouts, under-rated the host that General Howe 
had taken with him, and over-estimated the detachment 
which was left behind on Staten Island, and which was 
therefore disposable for a direct assault upon the city 
of New York. The incurable faultiness of the situation, 
in which Washington had allowed himself to be placed, 


was now painfully visible. He was under the necessity 
of keeping the halves of his own inferior force separated 
from each other by an arm of the sea, which the British 
fleet might at any moment render impassable for his 
rafts and barges ; while Howe, by the aid of that fleet, 
could throw the whole of his superior strength on any 
point along the extensive coast-line which encircled the 
American position. Washington informed President 
Hancock that he had been unable to send more than 
six additional battalions to the camp on Long Island, 
because the British fleet might move up with the re- 
mainder of their army, and make an attack on New 
York at the next flood-tide. The troops, (he said,) 
went off in high good humour ; and those on the spot 
discovered great cheerfulness, and an excellent temper.^ 
The colonists had need of all the gaiety which they 
could muster ; for the American garrison of Long 
Island, even after it had been reinforced, did not ex- 
ceed eight thousand men. 

The views of both the opposed generals were 
coloured, and their tactics governed, by recollections 
of Bunker's Hill. Howe moved cautiously, and in 
overwhelming force, with the intention of first driving 
the Americans within the lines of Brooklyn, and then 
besieging those lines deliberately and systematically, as 
if they were the ramparts of a fortified town. Wash- 
ington, on the other hand, was not without an expecta- 
tion that the enemy, — remembering their victory of the 
preceding year, and forgetting the price which it had 
cost them, — would march against his breastworks in 
uncovered hne of battle ; and that his own people 
would have the opportunity of fighting under circum- 
stances which made them the equals of any soldiers in 
the world. The British army would then be exposed 
to the probabihty of a sanguinary repulse, which would 
go far to disgust the British nation with the war and 
its authors. Daniel Webster has related how, when 

^ Washington to the President of Congress ; New York, August 23, 


the first tidings of Bunker's Hill reached Philadelphia, 
Colonel Washington made careful enquiry about the 
behaviour of the New England militia. On hearing 
that they had reserved their fire until the advancing 
column was within eight rods, and then had delivered it 
with fearful effect, he pronounced that in that case the 
liberties of the country were safe.^ And now, hoping 
against hope. General Washington made arrangements 
for securing that the scene on the heights above 
Charlestown should be repeated at Brooklyn on a 
larger scale ; and with this difference, that the intrench- 
ments would remain in American hands after the 
slaughter was over. The Order-book testifies to the 
pains which he expended over his preparations for this 
result. Brigadiers were directed to measure out a 
certain space in front of each several redoubt, and to 
make sure that the enemy had stepped within the fatal 
limit before ever an American musket was discharged. 
Piles of brushwood were to be laid along the line of 
demarcation, so as to render it distinct and familiar to 
the marksmen behind the bulwark. The captains were to 
see that bullets fitted the bore, that flints were properly 
fixed, and that cartridges were dealt out in equal 
parcels, with each man's name written legibly on his 
bundle ; and privates were especially enjoined to be 
attentive and silent, lest they should miss or mistake 
the order to fire, when at last that order came. 
Whether or not the race is to the swift, Washington 
had long ago been taught, both by triumph and defeat, 
that in the days of fire-arms the fight is always to the 

Nothing could be better planned than Washington's 
scheme of battle ; but with troops like his, at this early 
stage of the war, he should himself have been on the 

1 Daniel Webster spoke twice on Bunker's Hill ; — first in 1825, when 
Lafayette laid the corner-stone of the Monument, and again in 1843, when 
the Monument was finished. It was on the latter occasion that the story 
quoted in the text was told to a crowd of a hundred thousand persons, 
including eleven veterans who had fought in the battle. 



spot to see that his conceptions were carried into effect. 
He could not, however, any more than his army, be in 
two places at once. The proper post for a Commander- 
in-Chief, whose personal courage was above dispute, — 
and whose responsibihties extended over all the forces 
of the State, and over a theatre of war which covered 
six thousand square leagues, — was in his opinion at New 
York. He therefore maintained his head-quarters, where 
he had planted them, on the mainland, and in a great 
city whence it was easy to establish communications 
with all parts of the continent. As the plot thickened, 
however, he went over daily to the scene of action ; 
where, even in his absence, it cannot be said that there 
was any scarcity of officers. Indeed, the Americans on 
Long Island suffered from being over-generalled. Their 
story, during that eventful week, reads like one of those 
campaigns in ancient Greece where a different com- 
mander, in a group of several, directed the operations 
on each day in turn. Until a very short time before 
the storm of war burst upon the island, Nathanael 
Greene had been in charge ; and a better substitute 
for George Washington it would have been hard to 
find. Knox, the American general of artillery, whose 
praise was well worth having, has described Greene's 
soldiership as intuitive. *' He came to us the rawest and 
the most untutored being I ever met with: but in less 
than twelve months he was equal, in military knowledge, 
to any General Officer in the army, and very superior to 
most of them." ^ 

Those twelve months had now elapsed ; but they had 
been a period of strain, hardship, and exposure to many, 
and to Greene even more than others. On the fifteenth 
of August he reported himself in bed with a raging 
fever ; although he hoped, by the assistance of Provi- 
dence, to be on horseback again before the enemy 
landed. But either he had broken down more com- 
pletely than he thought, or the British came sooner 
than he expected ; for Washington found it necessary 

^ Garden's Revolutionary Anecdotes ; Vol. I., page 65. 


to inform Congress that General Greene had been ex- 
tremely ill, and still " continued bad " ; and that he had 
therefore been obliged to appoint Major General Sulli- 
van to command on the island. So Washington wrote 
on the twenty-third of August; and within forty-eight 
hours Sullivan had been superseded by Israel Putnam. 
Though now a full Major General of the Continental 
army, Putnam was the same shrewd, genial, New Eng- 
land uncle as ever; perfectly ready to die for his coun- 
try, but regarding life as a great joke so long as it 
lasted. A few days back he had been engaged in 
assisting the State authorities to remove women and 
children from the city of New York to a place of 
security. In the course of that operation he despatched 
to a friend at a distance what he apparently meant for 
an official letter. General Putnam sent him, (so the 
communication was worded,) his daughter. If he did 
not like her, he might send her back again ; and she 
would be taken good care of, and provided with a Whig 
husband.^ The veteran was only too well fitted for 
infusing an extra dose of hopefulness and enthusiasm 
into soldiers who, just then, would have been none the 
worse for a little self-distrust; but he did not possess 
either the training, or the temperament, indispensable 
for the leader of a regular army. A day after he 
assumed command, he had to endure something very 
like a severe scolding. It was with no small concern, 
(Washington wrote,) that he had listened to a scatter- 
ing, unmeaning fusillade from the American lines. 
That unsoldierlike and disorderly practice wasted am- 
munition ; frightened away any British or Germans who 
might be in the mind to desert ; and removed all proba- 
bility of distinguishing between a real, and a false, 
alarm. Good tactics consisted in keeping the main 
force alert, and in hand, behind the intrenchments ; in 
sending forward strong, well-led skirmishing parties for 
the purpose of harassing the adversary ; in laying traps 

1 General Putnam to Major Moncrieffe. Historical Manuscripts ; 
Fourteenth Report, Appendix, Part x. 



and ambuscades for his foragers; and, above all, in 
accustoming the young troops to fatigue and danger, 
and supplying them with the honestly earned, and 
therefore valuable, self-confidence which arises from 
an experience of success. 

That system of tactics, in the process of time, Wash- 
ington made, as it were, his own ; — the true Fabian 
poUcy, on which his fame as a captain largely, and 
indeed mainly, rests. But Putnam did not catch the 
idea when it was first presented ; and the British left 
him very little time to think it out. The old champion 
of the Indian border construed his instructions into a 
permission to have a battle royal in any position, and 
against any odds. Washington spent the whole of the 
twenty-sixth of August on Long Island, and made his 
dispositions with the object of securing that the advance 
of the British should be slow and arduous, and that the 
defenders of Brooklyn should not be attacked unawares. 
A range of densely wooded heights lay all along the 
front of the American position, distant from it about 
two miles at the nearest point. Towards the British 
left, in the neighbourhood of the sea, that range was 
traversed by a highway from Gravesend Bay. Four 
miles to the east two waggon roads, in close proximity 
to each other, climbed from the hamlet of Flatbush, 
over steep and broken ground, into the centre of the 
American lines. And again three miles in the same 
direction, far away on Putnam's left, a fourth road 
crossed the ridge, and conducted the traveller into an 
excellent causeway leading to Brooklyn, through Bed- 
ford, from the village of Jamaica.^ Washington sta- 
tioned infantry in each of the three defiles on his own 
right and centre ; and historians affirm that he gave 
orders to watch the Jamaica road, and that those orders 
were neglected. So it has been affirmed, but not by 
him ; for in this matter, as in all others, those who wish 
to hear what George Washington has to say in his own 

^All these roads are clearly marked on the map at the end of the 


defence must wait until the day of Judgement. At 
nightfall, when he went back to New York from Long 
Island, the American Commander-in-Chief left the west- 
ern approaches to Brooklyn covered by twenty-five hun- 
dred men. The rest of his troops slept on their arms 
within the fortifications, having been carefully drilled 
and indoctrinated to meet an assault which, after the 
precautions he had taken, could not come upon them as 
a surprise. 

At nine o'clock that evening Howe began to move. 
He did not despise his adversary ; and indeed, until 
close upon the very end of that protracted campaign, 
he never erred except from superabundant and un- 
timely caution. His main body, accompanied by a very 
powerful artillery,^ advanced on the extreme right from 
the village of Flatland. Clinton, who led the van, halted 
two hours before daybreak at the foot of the pass, half 
a mile short of the junction with the Jamaica road. Be- 
hind him stood Lord CornwalHs and Lord Percy ; while 
the long column was closed by the forty-ninth regiment, 
escorting a battery of heavy guns. General von Heister 
held the three brigades of Germans, deployed in a line 
nearly a mile in length, within cannon-shot of the two 
central passes. General Grant, meanwhile, with two bri- 
gades of English, and the Forty-second Highlanders, 
marched forward by the coast road. There was no weak 
man among the commanders, who had all served in 
famous wars ; and the affair went like clock-work. At 
midnight Grant assailed the American pickets, with a 
tremendous noise, and an ostentatious display of energy 
so regulated as not to carry him an inch further north- 
ward than his orders warranted. Howe's purpose was 
twofold ; — to distract the attention of the American 
general from the peril which threatened his left flank ; 
and to induce him, by the temptation of beating Grant, 
to send a large portion of his army so far to the front 
that it could almost certainly be enveloped and destroyed. 

1 According to Lord Howe's despatch, there were twenty- eight pieces 
of artillery with the right-hand column. 


The snare was deftly baited ; and it caught Putnam. 
At three in the morning of the twenty-seventh of August 
he heard that his outposts on the coast road had been 
driven in ; and he thereupon directed Lord StirHng, 
with the first troops on whom he could lay his hand, 
*' to advance beyond the lines and repulse the enemy." 
Shortly afterwards Putnam was informed that cavalry 
and infantry were in motion just south of the Jamaica 
highway. The neglect to provide themselves with 
mounted scouts was now disastrous to the Americans. 
Half a troop of light dragoons, under the charge of a 
brisk partisan, would have supplied Putnam with specific 
information of a character to sober even that boisterous 
warrior. No commander in his senses would have know- 
ingly and deliberately commenced a general action when 
he himself had not a left wing, and when the enemy's 
right wing was more than twice the size of that part of 
his own army which was present in the battle. But the 
news from the eastward, in the shape in which it reached 
Putnam, failed to alarm him. He did not recall Stirling ; 
he did not think it worth his while to advertise Washing- 
ton ; and the only step he took was that of sending 
Sullivan, with a minute reinforcement, to assume the 
command of the weak New England regiments which 
faced an enormously superior number of Germans on 
the central roads. The Americans were scattered 
through the woods, as sheep that had too many shep- 
herds. They were, in all, somewhere between four and 
five thousand, and they had six pieces of cannon as 
against forty. Man to man, their chance would have 
been a poor one ; and, when contending in a proportion 
of one to four, they had no chance whatever. 

The sun, (as Americans remembered it after the events 
on which it shone became matter of history,) rose with a 
red and angry glare. Clinton, who headed the British 
advance on the right, had no one to oppose him. He 
reached the meeting of the two highways, wheeled to 
the westward, and pushed vigorously along the Jamaica 
road. Between eight and nine in the morning he was 


at Bedford, in great force ; and he at once assailed Sulli- 
van's Americans in flank and rear. Against their front 
the Hessians advanced two deep, with colours flying, 
and to the music of drums and hautboys, as if they were 
marching across the Friedrichs Platz at Cassel on the 
Landgrave's birthday. They did not fire a shot, but 
pressed steadily forward until they could employ their 
bayonets. Sullivan did neither worse nor better than 
any ordinary, or perhaps any extraordinary, officer would 
do in such a hopeless predicament. He cannot be blamed 
for the plight in which he found himself ; for it was the 
business of the general in charge of the whole army, 
who had placed him where he stood, to provide against 
his being surrounded. Intercepted between Clinton and 
von Heister, the Americans made no resistance worth 
the name. Sullivan kept together some of his people, 
and showed fight for a while ; but the show must have 
been a poor one, for only two Hessians were killed. 
When the case was desperate he told his remaining 
soldiers, or as many as could hear him, to shift for them- 
selves ; and the greater part of their comrades had already 
anticipated his orders. One regiment, at least, had been 
withdrawn by its colonel soon enough for safety, and 
rather too soon for glory ; the men of other battalions 
broke their formation, and hid themselves in the bushes 
or maize fields until they could regain the American 
lines under cover of night; but Sullivan himself had 
stayed too long under fire, and he was taken prisoner, 
together with some hundreds of his followers. 

On the English left, General Grant attacked at day- 
break ; first with artillery ; and then, (as an approach- 
ing tumult from the northeast showed that the enemy 
opposite to him were well within the net,) he sent for- 
ward his skirmishers, and, after a due interval, thrust 
the main body of his infantry into close action. The 
Americans in that quarter displayed no backwardness 
to meet him. Lord Stirling had brought from camp an 
excellent Delaware battalion, and another which was re- 
cruited from the families of men of property in and 


about Baltimore. These were the young Marylanders 
who had paid so little deference to the homely New 
England generals, and who now were well content to 
serve under one who passed for a British nobleman, and 
who possessed qualities which did not derogate from 
the title. The ranks of both regiments were full, their 
uniforms smart, their weapons the best that money could 
purchase, and their courage high. StirHng himself, then 
and afterwards, was a hearty fighter ; but he had much 
to learn, or rather to unlearn, for he was not yet eman- 
cipated from a pedantic reverence for the drill-book. 
Colonel Reed, the American Adjutant General, com- 
mented on his action as follows in a spirit of respectful 
criticism. " My Lord, who loved discipline, made a 
mistake which probably affected us a great deal. He 
would not suffer his regiments to break, but kept them 
in lines and on open ground. The enemy, on the other 
hand, possessed themselves of the woods and fences. 
His personal bravery was conspicuous." In these bat- 
tles, where the numbers engaged were exceedingly 
small as compared with the issues which were staked 
upon the event, the personal bravery of a commander 
went for very much indeed; and Grant and Stirling 
made themselves felt all along their respective lines of 
battle. Encouraged by their example, both parties so 
comported themselves that each paid the other an un- 
studied and unintended compliment by greatly over- 
rating the force of their adversaries. The English 
subsequently confessed that objects seen through the 
medium of smoke and fire are always magnified, and 
that their own people reckoned the Provincials at three 
times the real figure ; and Washington's Adjutant Gen- 
eral claimed that the Americans on the right wing, 
whatever they lost, had preserved their honour, since 
the enemy were as ten to one. 

So much tenacity was shown on both sides that there 
was no need of exaggeration. The British men-of-war 
had attempted to advance by sea on a course parallel 
to Grant's line of march; but wind, and afterwards 


tide, were against them, and they could not beat up the 
Bay. The struggle on land was so severe that the 
English at one time had expended their ammunition, 
and were halted near the edge of the forest. Admiral 
Howe, powerless on his own element, and glad to be of 
what use he could, rowed on shore with a supply of 
ammunition, and sent his boat's crew up the hill laden 
with sacks of cartridges. It was a fierce and even 
combat; but the decision was being worked out else- 
where. Stirling, before ever he knew, was involved in 
an entanglement from which neither valour nor con- 
duct could extricate him without immense loss. Two 
miles to his rear ran Gowanus Creek, a sea-water in- 
let bordered on north and south by a broad and deep 
marsh. The only passage across the obstacle was a 
bridge commanded by the buildings of a mill, the ma- 
chinery of which was impelled by the tide that flowed 
up and down the estuary. That bridge had been burned 
by a Connecticut colonel, who had made a premature 
retreat from his station in the centre, and who, (so long 
as his own command escaped intact,) cared little what 
might befall the hindmost. And now Lord Cornwallis, 
passing round the rear of Clinton, marched a regiment 
of Highlanders, and another of Grenadiers, to the 
neighbourhood of the ruined bridge, and strongly oc- 
cupied a defile which would have been almost impassable 
even if it had been left undefended. 

When Stirling became aware that his communications 
were cut he issued the word to retire, and his troops 
withdrew in perfect order. He might well have been 
excused if he had given up all for lost; but he was 
fully determined that something considerable should 
be saved. He could rely upon his soldiers to second 
his intentions ; because on this, as on similar occasions 
throughout the war, men of English blood in both the 
contending armies evinced great unwillingness to sur- 
render. Stirling directed the main body of his people 
to struggle through the mire and the water as best 
they could; while he himself, with one wing of the 


Maryland regiment, remained behind to confront 
Cornwallis. Seven of the retreating Americans were 
drowned ; but the rest got safe across, and carried with 
them a score of British prisoners. Stirling kept up a 
long and very spirited struggle ; but he was encircled 
on every quarter. Cornwallis had not been slow to 
accept his challenge ; Grant had followed him up from 
the southward ; while Clinton and the Hessians, having 
finished their own business in the centre, marched 
promptly in the direction of the firing. The five com- 
panies from Baltimore were wiped off the rolls. The 
ground was thickly strewn with their buff and scarlet ; 
and the survivors, all but nine, were captured. Stirling 
gave up his sword to General von Heister ; whose 
presence on the spot testified both to the admirable 
skill with which Howe had brought his right wing to 
bear on all the critical stages of the battle in succes- 
sion, and to the heroism of those young Marylanders 
who had held their ground until the entire hostile army 
was assembled to overwhelm them. 

The loss of Americans in killed and wounded was 
variously estimated, and has never been ascertained. 
Washington reported it at a very few hundreds ; though 
he gave no details, and admitted that he had not been 
able to obtain a precise account. General Howe com- 
puted that more than two thousand of the enemy had 
been killed, wounded, drowned, and suffocated in the 
marsh ; but in the same paragraph of his despatch he 
put their number engaged at ten thousand, which was 
more than double the real amount. Howe was a poor 
hand at figures. During the earlier part of his career 
he had been accustomed to charge straight at the 
enemy without stopping to count them ; and, as a gen- 
eral in chief command, he counted them wrong. Not 
a dozen Americans were drowned in the creek ; and 
the country-bred militiamen picked their way through 
the bog without being suffocated.^ It is hard to be- 

1 Colonel Haslet, who commanded the Delawares, and brought them 
back across the creek, saw only one man drowned. 


lieve that, exclusive of prisoners, they can have lost 
anywhere near a thousand. According to Howe's own 
statement, less than seventy of their wounded were left 
behind on the field ; and yet those of them who had 
been badly hurt must all have been there. A great 
Anglo-Indian proconsul, who had witnessed as much 
war as most civilians, was in the habit of remarking 
that he had never been present at an affair where the 
victors were not firmly persuaded that their opponents 
had carried off the greater part of their dead and dying.^ 
That was asserted, and believed, on many occasions by 
both parties in the Revolutionary War ; but the Ameri- 
cans who retired from the fight on Long Island had 
enough to do in carrying off themselves. 

All which can be said for certain is that more Pro- 
vincials would have been hit if more of the British had 
shot straight. Our people had behaved to perfection. 
Howe's plan was worthy of Frederic the Great ; and the 
execution of it, — in accuracy, punctuality, and dash, — 
could not easily have been bettered by Frederic's army. 
It had been a performance, on a smaller scale, almost as 
artistic to a military eye as the manoeuvres by which the 
King of Prussia rolled up the Austrian line at Leuthen ; 
and yet some of Stirling's officers, who kept their heads 
in the melee^ observed that the fire of the British was 
less deadly than their discipline was exact, and their on- 
set determined.^ Three hundred of Howe's own troops 

1 Lord Lawrence told the author this, more than once ; and no one 
who knew the worth of words ever forgot what he had even once heard 
Lord Lawrence say. 

2 "The Major, Captain Ramsey, and Lieutenant Plunket were fore- 
most, and within forty yards of the enemy's muzzles. The enemy were 
chiefly under cover of an orchard, save a few that showed themselves and 
pretended to give up, clubbing their firelocks till we came within that 
distance, when they immediately presented and blazed in our faces. They 
entirely overshot us, and killed some men away behind in our rear. I 
was so near that I could not miss. I discharged my rifle seven times 
that day as deliberately as I ever did at a mark, and with as little perturba- 
tion." That passage occurs in an American letter of the thirty-first of 
August. Colonel Attlee, who was with Stirling at Long Island, wrote 
that, if Grant's soldiers had been marksmen, they must have cut off the 
greater part of his detachment. 


were killed or wounded, and a handful captured. Stir, 
ling and Sullivan, between them, had six guns in action, 
and lost them all. The British took prisoners near 
eleven hundred of the enemy, including three generals,^ 
and, (as was to be expected when an American army had 
met with a disaster,) an exceptionally large proportion 
of colonels. 

Washington came over to Long Island too late to 
prevent the battle, but in time to mitigate the severity 
of its consequences. When Howe directed a strong 
column against the Brooklyn lines, — on the chance of 
carrying them by a rush amidst the confusion and dis- 
may which at such a moment might beset the garrison, 
— he found the American Commander-in-Chief already 
there, with three fresh regiments from across the water ; 
and, after a few rounds had been discharged, the British 
retired. At another period of the morning Washington 
was on the west front of the fortifications, sending 
troops to protect and assist the remains of his right 
wing during their passage through Gowanus Creek, and 
witnessing the self-sacrifice of the Marylanders with 
emotion the outward signs of which he is described as 
having been unable to repress. He had need of all his 
self-command ; for there was little comfort to be drawn 
from the sights around him, or from the prospect which 
was before him. His miUtiamen, who required the en- 
couragement of an early success in order even to begin 
their conversion into real soldiers, had been flung into 
action against a regular army so numerous, and so ad- 
mirably handled, that it would have been able to give a 
good account of twice, or perhaps even three times, their 
number of European veterans. They had no food except 
biscuits, and some meat which they could not cook ; for 
on the morrow the weather broke. Rain fell continu- 
ously ; the men in the trenches were up' to their waists 

1 Besides Sullivan and Stirling, General WoodhuU was captured at 
Jamaica after the action, and died of wounds received under circumstances 
not very clearly recorded. In Howe's report, which has been followed by 
some English historians, he is misnamed " General Odell." 


in water; their cartridges were sodden, and most of 
their fire-arms useless. For in those days of flint-locks 
the effect of very heavy rain was to put military science 
four centuries back, by reducing good musketeers to the 
condition of indifferent spearmen ; ^ and the Americans 
were in worse case still, because some of their regiments 
were not even provided with bayonets. Several bat- 
talions had left their blankets far away in the woods, at 
the bivouacs which they occupied on the night preced- 
ing the battle. Nine thousand disheartened soldiers, the 
last hope of their country, were penned up with the sea 
behind them, and a triumphant enemy in front ; shelter- 
less and famished on a square mile of open ground 
swept by a fierce and cold northeasterly gale. 

That disagreeable circumstance was the salvation of 
the Republic. Towards the close of August, in those 
regions, the prevaiHng wind was from the southwest; 
and, whenever it once more blew from that usual quar- 
ter, all would be over with the American army, and, in 
all probability, with the American cause as well. Dur- 
ing the engagement on Long Island one of Lord Howe's 
vessels, which had contrived to get within range of the 
battery at Redhook, speedily dismounted the guns and 
wrecked the earthworks. Such had been the execution 
done by a single man-of-war, and that none of the larg- 
est. Washington could have no illusions as to what 

1 Till percussion caps came into use, no improvement in the weapon 
could obviate this drawback. At the battle of Dresden, in August 1 815, 
Murat's cuirassiers cut down and captured great masses of Austrian infan- 
try whose muskets would not go off on account of the wet ; and on the 
previous day Blucher's cavalry, largely from the same cause, had ruined 
Marshal Macdonald's army on the Katzbach. 

The British soldiers in America, — fine fellows that they were, — prayed 
for the sort of weather which would enable them to come to close quarters 
with their adversary. An English officer, who was in Burgoyne's expedi- 
tion, wrote thus of the army when on the way to Saratoga. "The heavy 
rain afforded another consolation to the men during the march, which 
was, in case the enemy had attacked us, that the fate of the day would 
have rested solely upon the bayonet. This idea prevailed so strongly in 
the minds of the men that, notwithstanding they were acquainted with the 
superiority of the enemy, an attack seemed to be the wish of every 


would be his fate when the whole British fleet lay in the 
East River, shelling New York ; searching every corner 
of his position on Long Island with thirty -two pound 
cannon-balls ; and rendering the provisioning and rein- 
forcement of his troops hopeless, and their retreat im- 
practicable. Even before the English Admiral could 
bring his guns to bear, the situation of the beleaguered 
Provincials was to a high degree precarious. There 
was a belief in both camps that, if Howe's infantry had 
been led to the assault, they would have walked over 
the intrenchments behind which the beaten army was 
now gathered.^ If that supposition was correct, the 
minute-men, who defended the redoubt upon Bunker's 
Hill, saved the American lines on Long Island. Their 
courage, and the precision of their fire, in the battle of 
the preceding year, had made such an impression upon 
Howe's memory that on this occasion he declined to 
repeat the experiment of a general assault across open 
ground. His sappers drew the first parallel at a distance 
of six hundred yards from the hostile ramparts, and his 
engineers proceeded to mark out sites for breaching 
batteries. His methods were slow, but as certain in 
their operation as the laws of nature. When once the 
wind changed, and the leading British frigates had 
passed within Governor Island and taken Brooklyn in 
the rear, the independence of the United States would 
have been indefinitely postponed ; and, whenever they 
became a nation, their capital would have been called by 
another name. 

But the end was not yet ; and, if it did not come now, 
it might come never. Washington allowed himself f orty- 

1 " Could we have trusted our spies' account," (an English officer 
wrote,) " a terrible slaughter might have been made. But the General 
appears to have been very wary." That opinion was held by some intel- 
ligent Americans inside the lines. ** On the morning after our first night's 
watch, Colonel Shee took me aside, and asked me what I thought of our 
situation. I could not but say that I thought it a very discouraging one. 
He viewed it in the same light, and added that, if we were not soon with- 
drawn from it, we should inevitably be cut to pieces." Pennsylvanian 
Memoirs ; chapter vi. 


eight hours within which to make his preparations; and of 
those hours he spent none in sleep, nor wasted any in 
tentative and misdirected efforts. His first care was to 
cheer up the disconsolate people around him. He sent 
to King's Bridge, sixteen miles above New York, for 
two Pennsylvanian regiments, which, (to use his own 
expression,) had been trained with more than common 
attention. In the forenoon of the twenty-eighth of Au- 
gust they marched up from the landing-place, gaily and 
expensively dressed, with heads erect and shoulders 
squared, and a bayonet at the end of every barrel ; 
while the spectators, proud to be the comrades of such 
a gallant company, were overheard saying that those 
were " the lads who might do something." With them 
arrived Colonel Glover's regiment of Massachusetts fish- 
ermen who, — although they had been deprived of their 
livelihood under that Statute against the passing of 
which Charles Fox vainly protested,^ — were soon to 
make it evident that nautical skill and hardihood could 
not be extinguished by Act of Parliament. Throughout 
the morning the sky was gloomy, and with the after- 
noon rain came ; but all that day, and all the next, the 
American General, ordinarily so frugal of powder, en- 
couraged those of his riflemen, who could keep their 
priming-pans dry, to exchange shots with the enemy's 
firing parties. The crackle of musketry, which ran 
along the parapet, held the besiegers in respect, and did 
something to restore and maintain the confidence of the 
Provincials. Taking into his secret one or two officers 
of high rank and tried discretion, Washington trans- 
mitted orders to New York, and up the estuaries on 
either flank of the Manhattan peninsula; and the pre- 
cautions which he observed were so stringent that not 
even his aides-de-camp knew his purpose. General 
Heath, who commanded at King's Bridge, — and the 
Assistant Quarter Master General, who was stationed 
in the city, — were commissioned to impress every kind 

1 An Act for Restraining the Trade and Commerce of the New England 
Colonies. The American Revolution ; chapter vii. 


of water-craft which had either oars or sails, and which 
could be kept afloat, and to have them all in the mouth 
of the East River by dark on the evening of the twenty- 
ninth. Then, and not till then, Washington assembled 
what was as near to a Council of War as a commander 
who had self-respect, and an opinion of his own, would 
permit himself to convene. When his generals had 
heard all that he had to tell them, they unanimously 
resolved to withdraw the army, and they put on paper 
a catalogue of most convincing reasons in favour of that 
course. The evacuation of Long Island, (so they stated,) 
was unavoidable, because the woods which covered the 
position had been occupied by the British ; because the 
soldiers had no roof over their heads, and the rain had 
spoiled their ammunition ; because the lines were weak in 
places, and the garrison was insufficient to guard them ; 
because the enemy were bringing round ships to cut off 
their retreat ; — in short, and in fact, because, if they 
were ever to get away at all, it was the utmost they could 
do to get away now. 

Washington had to solve the problem of preparing 
his army for a rearward march without giving any inti- 
mation of his actual project. At dark on the twenty- 
ninth of August his colonels were ordered to get their 
regiments under arms for a night attack upon the 
enemy ; and good, rather than harm, would have re- 
sulted if that tale had been carried across to the British 
outposts. Secrets, as the Commander-in-Chief more 
than suspected, were ill-kept in those easy-going ranks ; 
and soldiers, who had money to leave, were soon 
engaged in explaining to each other what, in case of 
accident, they wished to be their testamentary disposi- 
tions. When the troops had fallen in, to the surprise of 
all concerned the embarkation commenced. The wind 
was adverse. The sailing-vessels made very little way, 
and the rowing-boats were few, and in constant danger 
of being swamped ; but the mariners from Gloucester and 
Marblehead had navigated stormier seas ; and not a 
few of them, it is to be feared, had often plied their 


oars, even in time of peace, under circumstances which 
imperatively demanded both expedition and secrecy. 
Before midnight the northeast gale, after having 
raged for three days, died away ; a breeze sprang up 
from the right quarter ; and, while air enough was 
stirring to fill the canvas, the surface of the channel 
became so smooth that the very smallest pinnace could 
be loaded to the gunwale. There was some crowding 
and hustling in the neighbourhood of the ferry. A throng 
of militiamen, conscious that the bayonets of a regular 
army might at any moment be at their backs, could not 
be expected to wait their turn as placidly and courte- 
ously as a string of fashionable ladies and gentlemen 
filing up the gangway of the Calais packet.^ Those 
Americans, however, who were told off for special 
duties obeyed their orders with composure. General 
Mifflin undertook to hold the intrenchments with some 
picked regiments, until the less disciplined portion of 
the force was in safety ; and he kept with him the 
Pennsylvanians, the Delawares, and all that remained 
of the Marylanders. These troops, in consequence of a 
mistake which never was explained, were withdrawn 
prematurely from the front, and marched down in the 
direction of the boats. They were met by Washington 
in person ; and at his bidding they wheeled round into 
the darkness, and were back at their posts before their 
absence had been discovered by the enemy. The pick- 
axes and shovels of the British working parties were 
distinctly audible in the American lines ; but the 
besiegers either did not notice any suspicious sounds, 
or failed to detect their meaning. 

Heaven, to all appearance, was bent on helping 
that side which tried the hardest to help itself. As day 

^ Washington himself acknowledged that " matters were in much confu- 
sion at the ferry;" — confusion which seemed worse confounded to 
observers not in sympathy with the American cause. The crowd was so 
great, according to a Tory authority, that it was impossible to get within 
a quarter of a mile of the stairs. The rebels in the rear were mounting 
on the shoulders, and clambering over the heads, of those before them. 



approached, a thick fog enshrouded the two camps, the 
village of Brooklyn, and the East River up to the very 
quays of New York, but not a yard beyond ; for the 
city itself was in sunshine. About six in the morning 
Washington, — who, weary of the saddle, had been 
standing on the water-steps while his rear-guard took 
their places on the thwarts, — was the last man to step 
on board ; and the mist cleared in time for watchers on 
the northern point of Long Island to see his boat, and 
two others, still only half-way through their journey to 
the shore of refuge. Seldom had a retreating army 
made a cleaner sweep of its own property. Howe 
captured three stragglers who had stayed behind to 
plunder. There fell into his hands likewise a train of 
waggons ; and a few ancient cannon of the description 
which insurgents eagerly seize upon at the outbreak of 
a revolution, but of which, when serious fighting has 
begun, the artillerymen who work them are only too 
thankful to be quit. When the English at last be- 
thought themselves of going to see why there was no 
noise or movement behind the hostile breastworks, they 
found that everything of military value had been re- 
moved, — field-guns and horses; ordnance stores; and 
even the biscuits which had not been, and the raw pork 
which could not be, eaten. The provisions, indeed, 
were no great loss ; but privates in the Provincial army 
exultingly declared that the British soldiers, however 
hard they might look, would be unable to discover a 
single drink of rum. 

The renown of this historical achievement owes 
nothing to the vanity of its author. Washington con- 
tented himself with informing Congress that the retreat 
had been effected with no loss of men or ammunition, 
and in as good order as could reasonably have been 
anticipated. He and all his aides-de-camp, (as he 
begged the president to believe,) were too weary to write 
at any great length.^ Still less was to be learned from 

1 " The extreme fatigue," he said, " which myself and family have under- 
gone rendered me, and them, entirely unfit to take pen in hand. Since 


the report which Howe drew up for the information of 
the Ministry in England. When his despatch appeared 
in print, the battle of Long Island was related, as it had 
been fought, in three long and serried columns ; while 
the withdrawal to the mainland of the American army 
occupied barely the half of one brief and colourless para- 
graph. ^ In that century war news was kept in store at 
head-quarters until a large batch had been collected ; the 
events of several weeks were compressed into a single 
letter ; and it was easy for a general in command, when 
at last the packet sailed, to compound a narrative of his 
successes and failures in such judicious proportions as 
would gratify and reassure his countrymen at home. 
Horace Walpole, the least credulous of readers, acknowl- 
edged rather sulkily that it was a splendid Gazette. 
The frantic presumption, (he said,) which the tidings 
had aroused in Court circles, seriously endangered the 
relations between Great Britain and France.^ 

On the Continent of Europe the friends of Congress 
were dejected, and those of England " in a frenzy of 
joy ; " ^ but public opinion in America, which was nearer 
the spot, very soon disentangled the various elements of 
the story, and recognised that the escape of the Provin- 
cial army was not second in importance to the conflict 
by which it had been preceded. The Committee of Secret 
Correspondence at Philadelphia informed their agent in 
Paris that both Whigs and Tories agreed in their admi- 
ration of General Washington's performance.* Greene, 
who knew every inch of the ground, — whose military 

Monday, scarcely any of us have been out of the lines till our passage 
across the East River was effected yesterday morning ; and, for forty-eight 
hours preceding that, I had hardly been off my horse, and never closed my 

1 Gentleman'' s Magazine for October 1776. The volumes of the Maga- 
zine, used for this history, belonged to one who knew the truth about Long 
Island ; for they contain the book-plate of Marquis Cornwallis. The set 
was purchased by Macaulay, so that the well-thumbed pages have never 
passed out of Whig hands. 

2 Walpole's letters of October 13 and 31, 1776. 

^ Wharton's Diplomatic Correspondence ; Vol. II., page 185. 
4 Wharton; Vol. II., page 158. 



judgement was excellent, and whose favourite study had 
always been military history, — pronounced that, con- 
sidering the difficulties, the retreat from Long Island 
was the best effected retreat he ever read or heard of. 
The reHef and gratitude of the Revolutionary party were 
expressed in a contemporary effusion which has been 
preserved among the national records. To transport, 
(so this document ran,) across a wide channel of salt 
water a great multitude of troops, with all their baggage, 
military stores, and cannon, from out of the enemy's 
mouth, in a short summer night, — *' without even those 
who were retreating knowing anything of the matter till 
just before they were embarked, — required the conduct, 
the vigilance, the generalship of a Washington ; and, if 
Fame does not clarion his praise for it, she is not impar- 
tial." ^ Fame, in the United States of America, seldom 
falls short of her duty ; and it may be doubted whether 
any great national dcHverance, since the passage of the 
Red Sea, has ever been more loudly acclaimed, or more 
adequately celebrated, than the master-stroke of energy, 
dexterity, and caution by which Washington rescued his 
army and his country. 

According to an old Turkish proverb, — which refers 
to an illusion not confined to Turkish anglers, — every 
fish that escapes appears larger than it really is. It was 
believed by English staff-officers that Washington had 
got away with fifteen thousand men, and that at least 
twice that number of Americans were now assembled 
on the Manhattan peninsula. This belief seems to have 
influenced Howe's strategy, or rather his absence of 
strategy, during the golden hours and weeks which 
immediately followed his success on Long Island ; but 
that is all matter of conjecture, for posterity has not 
been admitted to hiscounsels. Threeyears subsequently, 
when he had returned to England a failure, — after he 
once more took his seat at Westminster, and before the 
constituents, who complained of his having deceived 

'^American Archives; September 1776. 


them, got an opportunity of displacing him,^ — he en- 
joyed the melancholy privilege of defending his gen- 
eralship in Parliament. On the twenty-second of April, 
1779, in a long speech delivered to a Committee of the 
whole House, he fought his battles over again ; and, 
(which was a harder task,) he gave his reasons for hav- 
ing more than once abstained from fighting when vic- 
tory was all but certain. He dwelt in voluminous detail 
on the successive military problems which he had to en- 
counter between the autumn of 1775, when he took over 
the command from Gage, and the spring of 1778, when 
he was replaced by Sir Henry Clinton ; but he slurred 
over the cardinal question of his inaction during the first 
fortnight of September 1776 in one meagre, and far from 
convincing, sentence.^ It is equally difficult to explain 
satisfactorily why Howe was so long about landing on 
New York Island, and why Washington was so slow in 
evacuating the city. As an error, — palpable, and from 
a tactical point of view quite indefensible, — one mistake 
may be set against the other ; but the American com- 
mander had an excuse which was wanting to his oppo- 
nent. Howe was bound to advise with no one except a 
brother who was as little likely to be a clog on spirited 
and aggressive action as any naval colleague that British 
general ever had ; whereas, on a decision so grave and 
irreversible as the abandonment of an important city, 
Washington esteemed himself to be under the obliga- 
tion of consulting, and, (in the last resort,) of obeying. 

The consent of that body to the evacuation of New York 
was obtained with much trouble, and by stages. On the 
third of September, Congress had only got so far as to 

^ American Revolution ; chapter viii. 

2 " The necessary preparations, and erecting batteries to facilitate the 
landing upon the Island of New York, and battering the enemy's works 
at Horen's Hook, occupied us till the fifteenth of September, when the 
possession of New York was effected." The batteries under cover of 
which the British ultimately landed on the island of New York were the 
broadsides of their men-of-war; and the fleet might have been opposite 
Kip's Bay by the first of September just as easily as a fortnight later on. 


determine that^ in the hypothetical case of the town prov- 
ing to be untenable, it should not be destroyed, even 
though its unburned houses would provide commodious 
winter quarters for the British. Washington summoned 
a council of war, which voted in favour of keeping five 
thousand men in the city, and of establishing their main 
force in a strong position some miles to the northward. 
New York was quite sure to be taken, and its garrison 
with it ; and therefore, so long as Congress was inclined 
to maintain the place at all hazards, it was a less evil to 
lose a quarter, than the whole, of the American army. 
That is the utmost that can be said for the course which 
the generals of that army agreed to adopt. 

There were soldiers, and civilians too, who remon- 
strated vigorously against a half measure which in their 
eyes was the less respectable because it seemed inspired 
by a desire to avoid the imputation of pusillanimity. 
Charles Lee declared that, so far from clinging perti- 
naciously to the islands, he would give Mr. Howe the 
fee-simple of the whole group. Jay expressed his ap- 
prehension that the hope of saving a few acres of terri- 
tory would plunge the country into inextricable difficulties. 
Colonel Ruf us Putnam, in his official report as Chief Engi- 
neer, represented to Washington that, so long as the 
troops were extended from New York to King's Bridge, 
the enemy would always be able to attack with superior 
force; that, if the Southern army were caught in the 
toils, and forced to surrender, nothing could prevent 
Howe from reaching Albany; and that, when Albany 
had fallen, the Northern army must forthwith quit Ticon- 
deroga on pain of being annihilated. ** I know," Putnam 
wrote, " that this doctrine gives up New York to destruc- 
tion, and exposes many other towns to be ravaged. But 
what are ten or twenty towns to the grand object t " 
Nathanael Greene contributed to the controversy a 
paper of very drastic strategical advice, enforced by 
apt historical instances, on which the leisure of con- 
valescence tempted him to expatiate. He reminded 
Washington that Francis the First, when his dominions 


were invaded by the Emperor of Germany, laid whole 
provinces waste, and by that policy starved and ruined 
Charles's army, and defeated him without a battle. And 
yet, in the sixteenth century, Provence and Champagne 
had been French, and loyal to the French King ; whereas 
two thirds of the property in New York belonged to 
Tories, who would receive no more than their deserts if 
the city and the suburbs were levelled with the ground.^ 
Washington did not at once repulse the suggestion; 
but New York was never condemned by him to the 
fate of Moscow. The dictates of humanity, combined 
with the highest principles of statesmanship, forbade 
him deliberately to set on fire a great city, the home of 
twenty thousand people, even though his own party was 
in a minority among them. Nor had the grave and im- 
mediate danger which threatened his army been as yet 
fully borne in on his convictions. The advice which he 
addressed to Philadelphia was less clear-cut and em- 
phatic than the crisis demanded ; ^ and at last the civil 
authorities were beforehand with him in resolving to face 
the inevitable. On the tenth of September, President 
Hancock informed General Washington that it was by 
no means the sense of Congress that the army, or any 
part of it, should remain in the city a moment longer than 
he should think it proper for the public service. Such 

1 Regimental officers who could not, like Greene and Putnam, make 
known their sentiments at head-quarters, talked freely among themselves 
about the danger of lingering at New York. " There cannot," wrote a 
Pennsylvanian captain, " remain a doubt that this city should have 
been evacuated as soon as possible after the quitting of Long Island. 
This was as obvious to me then as it is now; and I had backed my 
opinion with the bet of a beaver hat that there would be no attempt 
to defend it." 

2 " That the enemy mean to winter in New York there can be no 
doubt. That, with such an armament, they can drive us out is equally 
clear. The Congress having resolved that it should not be destroyed, 
nothing seems to remain but to determine the time of their taking posses- 
sion. It is our interest and wish to prolong it as much as possible, pro- 
vided the delay does not affect our future measures." That is an extract 
from a letter of Washington to the President of Congress, dated as late as 
the eighth of September. It most certainly cannot be read as an urgent 
appeal for permission to hurry on the evacuation of the city. 


an admission, — emanating from a quarter where a senti- 
ment, or rather a passion, adverse to the poUcy of re- 
tirement had notoriously prevailed, — was equivalent to 
a command. Something had already been done towards 
removing the enormous collection of stores which filled 
New York ; and every effort was now devoted to acceler- 
ate the process. The land transport was deficient ; but 
cargoes of heavy goods were despatched by boat up the 
Hudson River ; an operation which the British Admiral, 
with a negligence which was foreign to him, did nothing 
to interrupt. Even thus the work went slowly ; and 
meanwhile the army was so distributed as to present 
an attractive opi)ortunity for an enterprising enemy. 
Washington's head-quarters, and his best troops, were 
stationed on the heights of Haerlem, behind strong lines 
which ran right across from sea to sea exactly half-way 
up the peninsula. General Putnam remained in the city 
with some infantry, and a few companies of artillery, 
to preserve order in the streets, and to superintend the 
depletion of the magazines ; while five brigades of militia 
were posted at intervals along the eastern shore, ready 
in case the Ikitish made a forward movement before the 
city was finally abandoned. 

Time was no longer wasted ; but far too much had 
been lost already. After Washington's thoughts were 
once fairly set upon departure, he did not enjoy an easy 
moment ; and the acuteness of his anxiety was an un- 
answerable condemnation both of his own temerity in 
prolonging the retention of New York, and of Howe's 
apathy in delaying to grasp the prize which so long had 
been dangled before him. *' I fully expected," Wash- 
ington wrote on the fourteenth of September, " that an 
attack somewhere would be made last night ; and happy 
shall I be if my apprehensions of one to-night, or in a 
day or two, are not confirmed by the event." Ever 
since the month commenced, the British had been en- 
camped on the northwest angle of Long Island, in 
and about the villages of Newtown and Flushing, and 
on the high ground which, from across the channel, 


overlooked the centre of the American position. It 
was not, however, until Friday the thirteenth that any- 
considerable naval force was transferred to the quarter 
where its action could materially assist the army. On 
that afternoon two ships of forty guns, and two of 
twenty-eight guns, penetrated the East River, and 
anchored above the city ; on the evening of the next 
day they were reinforced by some of their consorts ; 
and at eleven o'clock on the morning of the fifteenth 
of September a heavy cannonade was opened upon the 
American troops who lined the earthworks at Kip's 
Bay, where Thirty-fourth Street now comes down to 
the water. At the same time four long columns of 
barges, laden with British light infantry and German 
Grenadiers, emerged from Newtown inlet. Their move- 
ments were directed by Commodore Hotham ; an excel- 
lent officer, whenever he had a still better officer to 
command him. Hotham gave the signal ; and the 
flotilla spread itself into line, and swept forward to the 
hostile shore. It was an imposing spectacle. The 
amazing fire from the shipping, the soldiers in scarlet 
clambering up the steep rocks, and the river covered 
with boats full of armed men pressing eagerly to the 
shore, were described as forming one of the grandest 
and most sublime stage-effects that had ever been ex- 

Such was the scene as painted by a British officer, 
for the admiration of his home circle ; but those specta- 
tors who occupied the front places opposite very soon 
had enough of the show. The New England militia- 
men who lined the coast were too intelligent to be de- 
ceived as to the nature of the service demanded of 
them, and too little disciplined to perform that service 
heartily if it did not commend itself to their liking and 
approval. They had been posted where they stood, as 
every man of them was aware, in order to secure the 

^ Captain William G. Evelyn, of the British Light Infantry, to his 
aunt, Mrs. Boscowen, England : given in the Appendix to Mr. Henry 
Johnston's important treatise on the Battle of Haerlem Heights. 


retreat of the American army ; and they at once pro« 
ceeded, by the most direct method, to secure the retreat 
of that part of the army in whose safety they were 
specially interested. The troops who were behind the 
intrenchments ran away ; and two brigades, which had 
been told off to support them, retired in confusion along 
the Haerlem road. Washington, who had galloped up 
to the sound of the cannon, shouted for the officers to 
get their people off the highway, and place them behind 
the walls, and among the fields of Indian corn, which 
flanked it on either side ; but, on the appearance of 
sixty or seventy red-coats, (as Washington counted 
them,) the whole assemblage broke and fled.^ Howe's 
great chance had come. The garrison of New York, 
— as well as three brigades of infantry which had been 
stationed along the bank of the East River, south of the 
point where the British landed, — might all be had for 
the taking. An advance guard of the Hessians, with 
little trouble, and no loss to themselves, secured three 
hundred prisoners; and not one of the retreating bat- 
talions would ever have reached the American lines in 
military order, and with half its full numbers, if Howe 
had promptly pushed his troops athwart the peninsula, 
which here was less than three thousand yards wide. 
He had several hours to spare, while Putnam was rid- 
ing furiously about the town, collecting the various por- 
tions of his command, and starting them for Haerlem 
Heights. Not till four of the afternoon did the British 
commence a stately progress northward along the route 
which, in modern New York, goes by the name of Fifth 
Avenue ; while, on a parallel road, separated from them 
only by the breadth of the present Central Park, the 
long column of sweltering American militiamen toiled 
over the ground now covered by those less fashionable 
thoroughfares that more nearly skirt the Hudson River. 
Putnam brought off safely all his regiments, and even 
some of his field-pieces. Between fifty and sixty can- 

1 Washington to the President of Congress; September 16, 1776. 
American Archives; October 25. 


tibn, mounted or dismounted, and a vast quantity of 
shells and roundshot, remained in the city as a prize for 
the victors. In both armies together, less than a score 
of warriors bit the dust ; and among the Americans 
very few had so much as bitten a cartridge. Their 
troops, (said one of their generals,) never fired a gun ; 
but as soon as the British began to land, they ran as if 
the devil was in them.^ 

It was a day of small carnage, but of many legends.^ 
According to a very popular American anecdote, the 
British Commander-in-Chief never got further westward 
than the country-seat of a New York merchant, which 
stood on a pleasant eminence half-way across the penin- 
sula. The owner of the house happened to be a 
Quaker ; and, as such, he was almost as a matter of 
course rich, and a Tory. His lady, however, — the 
mother of Lindley Murray the grammarian, — held Revo- 
lutionary principles, and was so handsome and attractive 
that she might air them with impunity in any com- 
pany whatsoever. She enjoys the credit of having kept 
Howe and his generals drinking her husband's Madeira, 
and listening to a merry argument on politics between 
Governor Tryon and herself, until the day was so far 
advanced that no time remained for arranging to inter- 

1 General Caesar Rodney to Messrs. Reed and Mackean ; September 18, 

2 New York was taken on a Sunday. David How, (whose diary has 
been quoted frequently in earlier chapters of the History of the American 
Revolution^ arrived in camp from Boston on the twenty-sixth of August, 
and at once fell into the busy, queer way of life which he always pursued 
on active service. He had already been under cannon-fire ; had done a 
good stroke of work on the Haerlem intrenchments ; and had purchased 
a jacket and a pair of breeches for fifteen shillings from one of his comrades. 
As soon as he settled down in his new quarters, How was careful to 
note the Sundays, and, (whenever he could get to meeting,) the text. On 
the fifteenth of September he was too much occupied for church going ; 
but he gives a discreet, and remarkably indulgent, account of the motives 
which prompted the American retreat. " Our people thought best to 
leave the lower part of the Town so that the shipping might not play on 
us. Our army all marched to the upper part of the Town this after Noon." 
This expression of " The Town" is here apparently used for the whole 
township which covered the island of Manhattan. 


cept Putnam. There are other stories, not less widely 
current, which represent Washington as having alto- 
gether lost his self-restraint when his troops disbanded 
themselves for headlong flight. Which, if any, of his 
words and actions were truthfully reported it is at this 
time impossible to distinguish ; but nothing is more cer- 
tain than that, during some minutes of bitter agony, he 
showed himself indifferent to the preservation of a life 
which belonged to his country, and was not his own to 
throw away. When all allowance has been made for 
exaggeration, the semi-mythical narratives of that Sun- 
day morning and afternoon have their value as embody- 
ing the indelible impression left on the public mind of 
America by Howe's untimely inactivity, and by Wash- 
ington's disappointment and despair.^ 

That despair endured through the night, but was 
dispelled ere the morrow closed. ** We are now en- 
camped," (Washington wrote at sunrise on the sixteenth 
of September,) '' on the Heights of Haerlem, where I 
should hope the enemy would meet with a defeat in 
case of an attack, if the generality of our troops should 
behave with tolerable bravery. But experience, to my 
extreme affliction, has convinced me that this is rather 
to be wished for than expected. However, I trust there 
are many who will act like men, and show themselves 
worthy of the blessings of freedom. I have sent out 
some reconnoitring parties to gain intelligence." The 
post had only just gone off with the General's letter 
when news was brought that the British were advancing. 
Washington's scouts had come into collision with Howe's 
outposts, and had retired after a sharp and close ex- 
change of musketry. The American army turned out at 
the noise of the firing, and covered Haerlem Heights 
with a triple line of infantry divisions. At length the 

^ General Greene's sober phrases relate as much of the truth as is worth 
knowing. " Fellows's and Parsons's whole brigade ran away from about 
fifty men, and left his Excellency on the ground within eiglity yards of the 
enemy, so vexed at the infamous conduct of the troops that he sought 
death rather than life." 


English van-guard came into view, — splendid troops, 
overflowing with contempt for a foe whom they had 
thrice within one month chased and scattered ; and whom, 
now that he had taken refuge in his intrenchments, 
their buglers tauntingly saluted with the hunting-call 
which announced that a fox had gone to ground. 
Washington saw his opportunity, and sent out a detach- 
ment which, cleverly pushed forward and then in turn 
withdrawn, tempted his impetuous adversaries down into 
the valley that lay in front of the American lines. In the 
meantime two hundred riflemen and rangers, the flower 
of the Virginian and New England sharpshooters, fetched 
a circuit to the eastward with the intention of encom- 
passing, and cutting off, the English skirmishers. The 
Southerners were commanded by Major Leitch, and the 
Northerners by Captain Thomas Knowlton, whose 
youthful promise has won him a place in the affec- 
tionate memory of his countrymen. By some mis- 
take their attack commenced too soon, in flank, and not 
in rear, of the force which was opposed to them ; but, 
when once begun, it was pushed home. The English 
fell back, fighting stiffly, and making the pursuit a very 
dangerous form of sport to those who followed them. 
They retreated no further than the spot where they 
found their reinforcements, which consisted of two 
battalions of light companies, and the Forty-second 
Highlanders, with the welcome addition of a couple of 
field-pieces. Then they took their stand along a slope 
crowned by a field of buckwheat, not far from the vil- 
lage of Bloomingdale, on ground which is now over- 
looked by the bold and imposing dome of President 
Grant's mausoleum. 

It is a pity that old Ulysses was not there to see ; for 
it was the sort of fight which he liked to watch, and 
knew well how to set going. The American supports 
came thronging up, accompanied by many superior 
officers whose special functions should have kept them 
elsewhere ; but the recollections of yesterday were ran- 
kling in their breasts, and they were determined that on 


this occasion the result should be such as would do the 
army credit. The Bloomingdale road, on that forenoon, 
was a very bad neighbourhood for shirkers. General 
George Clinton had left his pistols behind him in camp, 
or otherwise he would, (so he declared,) have shot " a 
puppy of an officer " whom he caught skulking off in 
the heat of the action. Colonel Reed, the Adjutant 
General, when he had extricated himself from under 
his dying horse, had a private battle of his own with a 
runaway made desperate by terror.^ A vast majority 
of the men, however, needed no driving ; and they were 
superbly led. Knowlton was slain on the field. Leitch 
had three balls through him, and died a fortnight after. 
Nor did the Provincials fire in the air. Nineteen holes 
were counted in a single rail of the fence behind which 
the British infantry had been posted. On both sides the 
loss was heavy for the numbers who had been engaged. 
The English list of casualties was the larger ; but more of 
the Americans were killed outright ; for our light in- 
fantry were marksmen selected from all the regiments, 
and shot like so many backwoodsmen.^ The conflict 
ended towards three in the afternoon, a couple of miles 
to the south of Haerlem Heights. Howe had ordered 
up several more English battalions, and von Donop's 
brigade of Hessians ; and on their approach the firing 
ceased, and the combatants retired to their respective 

^ " I suppose many persons will think it was rash and imprudent for officers 
of our rank to go into such an action. General Putnam, General Greene, 
Mr. Tilghman, and many of the General's family were in it ; but it was really 
done to animate the troops, who were quite dispirited, and would not go 
into danger unless their officers led the way," That is an extract from a 
letter written by the Adjutant General to his wife. One of the fugitives 
pointed his musket at Colonel Reed, and pulled the trigger. The Colo- 
nel thereupon seized a piece from a soldier, and snapped it at his assailant; 
but both guns missed fire. " He has been tried," (Reed said,) "and is 
now under sentence of death ; but I believe I must beg him off, as, after I 
could not get the gun off, I wounded him in the head, and cut off his 
thumb with my hanger." And so the man lived ; and, for all that history 
knows, he may have figured as a mutilated soldier of the Revolution on 
Fourth of July platforms in the nineteenth century. 

2 "The troops fought well on both sides, and gave great proofs of theil 
marksmanship." General Heath's Memoirs ; September l6, 1 776. 


quarters. That is the account given in Washington's 
despatch ; and his story is confirmed by a young officer 
in a famous EngHsh regiment, who lived to conquer 
Mysore at the head of the largest British army that had 
ever marched to victory in India. ** We were trotted about 
three miles, (without a halt to draw breath,) to support 
a battalion of light infantry which had imprudently ad- 
vanced so far as to be in great danger of being cut off. 
This must have happened, but for our haste. The in- 
stant the front of our columns appeared, the enemy be- 
gan to retire to their works, and our light infantry to 
camp. On our return we were exposed to the fire of 
the Americans. A man in my company had his hat 
shot through, nearly in the direction of my wound, but 
the ball merely raised the skin." So wrote Captain 
Harris, of the Fifth Fusiliers, whose head had been 
broken by a bullet at Bunker's Hill. He had now come 
back from hospital, in fine spirits and with a very solid 
appetite,^ to serve another turn in that rude apprentice- 
ship which in his case was the path to lofty fortunes. 

Howe claimed the affair as a success ; but his best 
officers thought differently. Sir Henry Clinton, long 
afterwards, recorded his view in a note on the margin 
of Stedman's History. " The ungovernable impetu- 
osity," (he wrote,) "of the light troops drew us into this 
scrape." Colonol von Donop, a very gallant man, and 
no boaster, reported that, if it had not been for the 
opportune arrival of his Jagers, the Highlanders and 
the British Light Infantry would perhaps have been 

1 " We placed our picquets ; borrowed a sheep ; killed, cooked, and 
ate some of it ; and then went to sleep on a gate which we took the lib- 
erty of throwing off its hinges. The sixteenth of September, before we 
started in the morning, our dinner, consisting of a goose and a piece of 
mutton, had been put on the fire. Our domestic deposited the above-named 
delicacies on a chaise, and followed us with it to our ground. When the 
fight was over, he again hung the goose to the fire, but the poor bird had 
been scarcely half done when we were ordered to return to our station. 
There again we commenced cooking, and, though without dish, or plate, 
or knife, did ample justice to our fare, which we washed down with bad rum 
and water, and then composed ourselves to rest on our friendly gate.'* 
Captain George Harris to his uncle ; September 1776. 


captured. Von Donop's estimate of the serious char- 
acter of the engagement at Haerlem was shared by the 
professional grumblers of the army, who were not so 
modest, and most of them not so brave, as the veteran 
German. One of these gentry took into his confidence 
some American prisoners confined on a hulk which was 
stationed in the Bay. On Sunday, (we are told,) he 
came on board, abusing the Yankees for runaway cow- 
ards, who would not stand their ground long enough to 
give a British officer a chance of getting honour and pro- 
motion. He was in the Monday's action also, and re- 
turned in the evening cursing the war, and saying that, 
after all, the Americans would fight, and that it would be 
impossible to conquer them.^ Washington, in measured 
and tranquil language, imparted the relief and satisfac- 
tion, which filled his own mind, to the pleased and re- 
pentant army. '* The behaviour of yesterday," (so ran 
his General Order of September the seventeenth,) "was 
such a contrast to that of some troops the day before as 
must show what can be done where officers and soldiers 
exert themselves." And so it comes about that Haerlem, 
— though not among the decisive, and still less the 
gigantic, battles of the world, — has always been fondly 
regarded by American writers as a turning-point in the 
uphill progress of their national miHtary efficiency. 

The spread of New York City has obliterated all 
rustic features of the locality ; for the district over which 
the contest swayed to and fro now lies between One 
Hundred and Fifth Street to the south, and One Hun- 
dred and Thirty-first Street to the northward. Patriotic 
antiquaries must find what consolation they may in the 
reflection that the hollow lane, into which the British 
skirmishers rashly descended, and the bush-grown 
ledges where Knowlton fell, are now worth a great 
many more dollars a square yard than the sacred soil of 
Thermopylae or Bannockburn. A very different fate, 

1 Extract from the MS. Literary Diary and Journal of Occurrence 
kept by Dr. Stiles, in possession of Yale University, as given in Mr. John- 
ston's Battle of Haerlem Heights. 


from the point of the picturesque, has befallen another 
Haerlem, from which the American village originally 
derived its name. On the narrow north front of that 
old Dutch city lie the bastion of the Cross and the bas- 
tion of St. John, where over the space of six full months 
a terrible conflict raged between the burgesses and their 
wives on the one hand, and the son and the soldiers of 
Alva on the other. Those bastions now form the ter- 
race-walks of a little pleasure ground, sloping down to 
an ornamental canal which formerly was the town moat. 
It is a scene to be visited in early summer. Then, out 
of the sweet green foliage, just across the water, in a 
bend of the winding pool, there rises a graceful tower 
attached to an ancient almshouse. All the front part of 
the building, which the Dutch cannon ruined, was re- 
constructed in the seventeenth century ; but a closer 
examination discovers, to the rear of the group of dwell- 
ings, a small outhouse which, in the gable of its high- 
pitched roof, displays a date some ten years anterior to 
the siege of 1573, and which looks its age. Behind those 
very walls the veterans from Spain and Italy were over 
and over again mustered, in preparation for furious and 
fruitless assaults on the crumbling breach and the starv- 
ing garrison. Nowhere, perhaps, are associations so 
thrilling, and so authentic, gathered around so fair a 
spot as that which the long death-grapple between mar- 
tial discipline, and homely valour, made horrible for a 
space of time, and ennobled for ever. 





During the rest of the summer Howe lingered at New 
York, opposite the American lines, which were elab- 
orately fortified, and manned by six times as many 
troops as were suflficient to defend them. He easily 
found a justification for not attempting to carry that 
impregnable position by direct assault. In 1779, when 
he was addressing the House of Commons in his own 
defence, he laid it down as the most essential duty of a 
general never wantonly to expose His Majesty's troops 
in a case where the required end could be attained with 
little bloodshed. As for Hacrlcm Heights, (he truly 
urged,) the loss of a thousand or fifteen hundred Royal 
soldiers would have been an excessive price to pay for 
the capture of intrenchments which the Americans 
could not have held, even for a very few days, after 
the British had once begun to break ground towards 
their own right flank by proceeding to occupy the 
neighbouring peninsula of Westchester. The reasons, 
however, which Howe gave for allowing those very few 
days to extend themselves into not a few weeks were 
miserably inadequate. He pleaded ignorance of the 
mainland which lay to the eastward. The country, 
(he said,) was ill adapted for reconnoitring-parties of 
infantry ; he was badly provided with cavalry, for most 
of his horse-transports were still on their passage out 
from England ; and little or nothing could be learned 
from the inhabitants, who were totally unable to supply 
a military description of the districts in which they 
resided. Nor was this the only, or the most serious, 



point on which Howe's expectations of assistance from 
the American Loyalists had been falsified ; for he con- 
fessed that, to his infinite chagrin, the colonists were not 
so well disposed to enlist in the service of the Crown as, 
before leaving England, he had been taught to anticipate.^ 

Some years after this date, — when the most sanguine 
among the English Ministers had given up all hopes of 
conquering the North in the North itself, and when the 
war had been transferred to the Southern provinces, — 
inhabitants of those provinces freely rallied to the 
British standards. In the course of the long and dubi- 
ous struggle for the possession of Georgia and the 
Carolinas, the Royal cause was aided, and sometimes 
sadly discredited, by bands of numerous, devoted, and 
much too truculent partisans. But taking into account 
the whole of the Southern levies, — and including all 
the King's Rangers, and Queen's Rangers, and Royal 
Fencibles, and Royal Guides and Pioneers, and Loyal 
American Legionaries, and Prince of Wales's Volunteers, 
throughout the entire continent, — the sum total of 
colonists who took arms for the Crown, between 1775 and 
1 783, did not exceed twenty-five thousand. During those 
years the State of Massachusetts alone furnished thrice 
that number of recruits to the armies of the Republic.^ 

A very interesting description of rural Loyalists 

^Sir William Howe's speech of April 22, 1779, in the Parliamentary 
Histojy of England ; Vol. XX., pages 679, 680. When examined before 
Parliament in the May of the same year, Lord Cornwallis stated that a 
knowledge of America, for military purposes, was extremely difficult to 
be obtained from the inhabitants. Little or no information, (he said,) could 
be got by reconnoitring, as the country was everywhere hilly, and covered 
with wood ; intersected by ravines, creeks, and marshes ; and presenting 
at every quarter of a mile a post fitted for ambuscades. 

''^Chapters iv. and viii. of the Historical Essay prefixed to Sabine's 
America7t Loyalists. Mr. Sabine is a just-minded and well-informed 
writer ; and his feeling towards the Loyalists of the Revolution was such 
that he might safely be trusted not to under-rate the sacrifices which they 
made to their opinions. A return of the numbers of men, contributed by 
each several State to the Continental Army, was prepared by General Knox 
after the war had ended, and was recently reprinted by order of Congress, 
at the suggestion of Senator Cabot Lodge. According to this return 
Massachusetts, from first to last, furnished 78,471 soldiers. 



in the province of New York is given by Mr. Henry 
Dawson, a writer of our own generation, whose sym- 
pathies, if not hostile to the Revolution, are at all events 
very strongly against the Revolutionists. The farmers 
of Westchester County, in Mr. Dawson's view, were 
universally conservatives; but "their simple domestic 
habits, and controlling love of home," rendered them 
averse to fight for their political creed. Their fidelity 
to the Royal cause, (so he tells us,) was inspired by 
recollections of the quiet times which they had enjoyed 
under the Royal Government; when good fcelingbetween 
neighbours, regard among friends, and affection in 
families, had not yet been banished from their corner 
of the earth ; before ever the strife of faction prevailed 
through the land, and the people " hunted every man 
his brother with a net."^ Tories were Tories because 
they loved and regretted the old jK^acef ul days ; and, if 
they could not get back peace as a community, they 
were determined to have as small a share of war as pos- 
sible in their character of individuals. Few, of their own 
choice, joined the Royal army ; and those among them 
whom Whig persecution drove from their homes, and 
constrained to take refuge in the English ranks, became 
reluctant and exceedingly unprofessional soldiers. The 
innocent letters which they wrote to their parents from 
camp fully explain what Sir William Howe, and Lord 
Cornwallis, meant when they told the I louse of Commons 
that very little military information of value could be 
extracted from the country folk of New York and New 
Jersey. It may readily be believed that the Selectman 
of a loyal district, with the best will in the world to 
assist King George's ofificers, could not throw much 
light upon the strength, and probable destination, of an 
American column which had marched once across his 
township, when his sons in the cantonments on Long 
Island failed to guess, within fifty thousand men, the 
numbers of the British and Hessians in the midst of 

^ Paper by Mr. Henry B. Dawson, inserted in the History of Westchester 
County^ New York. 


whom they lived, and whose battalions they might 
count, like so many pawns on a chess-board, as often 
as the army was paraded.^ 

Howe remained in front of Washington's position for 
four livelong weeks after the fight at Haerlem, slowly 
and painfully erecting earthworks which the American 
spadesmen would have thrown up in the course of as 
many days and nights; writing testy despatches to the 
War Office in London ; and chaffering with the Ameri- 
can Government about the relative value of the prisoners 
whom he had lost and the prisoners whom he had cap- 
tured. A bargain was at length concluded. Lord 
Stirling was exchanged for a Royal governor, and 
Sullivan for an English brigadier named Prescott, 
whom Montgomery had taken at Montreal. Howe 
sent over for Washington's inspection a bullet fixed on 
the end of a nail, which had been found in a deserted 
American encampment, and expressed himself as well 
assured that the contrivance had not come to the 
knowledge of the American commander; and Washing- 
ton replied that no pains should be spared in order 
to prevent so wicked and. infamous a practice being 
adopted in his army. It was a very interesting corre- 
spondence, but the price of postage was excessively high ; 
inasmuch as every additional fortnight that Howe loi- 
tered on Manhattan Island cost the British Treasury 
more than the whole annual revenue derived from the 
British Post Office. On the night of the twentieth 
of September a conflagration broke out in New York 
City, and consumed more than a tenth part of the 

1 " Honoured Mother, and Brothers, and Sister, it hath pleased God 
of his Bountiful goodness, among the rest of abilities Bestowed upon me, 
to give me a small use of the Pen, the Noblest of Arts, that I may convey 
the Ideas of my mind Though at ever so great a Distance. It hath been 
my Misfortune to Seek on this Island a place of Refuge from wicked and 
ungodly men. Eli is well ; and likewise 1 are well. Caleb and Nathan 
are well likewise. Our army Consists now of Eighty Thousand, Besides 
Rangers, and 200 Transports is expected every day laden with men. 
Unless the rebels lay down their arms, and accept of Mercy, they will be 
destroyed and cut off." Letter from Newtown, Long Island; Sept. 2%^ 


four thousand tenements before the troops and sailors 
could get the flames under. In the panic and wrath 
consequent upon such an event, at such a moment, 
each of the adversaries accused the other of having 
deliberately set the town on fire. The British and Ger- 
man soldiers, being the stronger party of the two, acted 
upon their own theory of the case, and executed sum- 
mary and indiscriminate vengeance upon individuals 
whom they suspected. "The gentleman," wrote Wash- 
ington, " who brought the letter from General Howe, 
told Colonel Reed that several of our countrymen had 
been punished with various deaths, some by hanging, 
others by burning." Governor Tryon, judging another 
by himself, did not scruple to affirm that Washington 
had devised the plot; had selected and instructed the 
actual incendiaries; and had sent all the bells of the 
churches out of town, under pretence of casting them into 
cannon, in order to prevent the alarm of fire being given 
from the steeples. ' An exhaustive collection and collation 
of evidence has proved that the calamity was accidental.^ 
Whatever mii;ht have been its origin, the affair was an 
object-lesson of real importance; for the soldiers of the 
Government by whose orders Falmouth and Norfolk 
were laid in ashes had it very forcibly brought home to 
their convictions that it was a crime to destroy a town.^ 
At length Howe once more set his troops in motion ; 
and the movement, though tardy, was strongly and 

^ Governor Tryon to Lord George Clermaine ; New York, Sept. 24, 1776. 

^ The Librarian of the New York Historical Society has been good 
enough to place in my hands a paper drawn up by his late brother, Mr. 
William Kelby, who preceded him in his present office. This compilation, 
printed in 1866 in the J/<;«;/^/ of the Corporation of the City of New York, 
contains extracts relating to the Great Fire taken from histories written 
near the time, from official despatches, from authoritative newspaper re- 
ports, and from contemporary private letters. There was talk of" a thou- 
sand, or even fifteen hundred, buildings having perished ; but the most 
precise computation, which classed the houses destroyed according to 
the districts, placed them at four hundred and ninety-three. A great 
multitude of persons were arrested and examined ; but no evidence was 
found against them, and they, one and all, were set at liberty. In a city 
under military government, and in a case where severity to the utmost limit 
of justice was a public duty, such lenity would never have been displayed 


thoughtfully planned; as was the case with all his 
operations throughout the campaign until the period 
arrived when success had relaxed the springs of caution. 
His scheme was to leave, behind his intrenchments on 
Manhattan Island, a force adequate to protect New 
York from attack during the next few days ; and within 
a few days the danger would be over. He himself pur- 
posed to shift eastwards, and place his main army in 
the peninsula of Westchester, on the flank and rear of 
the Americans, directly between them and their base 
of supply in Connecticut. British warships, meanwhile, 
were to ascend the North River, and cut off Washing- 
ton from a retreat into the province of New Jersey. 
With promptitude, conduct, and a reasonable share 
of good fortune, Howe had every hope of capturing the 
best and largest part of the American forces. The 
project, in the earlier stages, was ably and luckily exe- 
cuted. Lord Percy, with three brigades, took charge 
of the fortifications which covered the city. At dawn 
on the twelfth of October, 1776, eighty vessels, of all 
sorts and sizes, heavily laden with British troops, passed 
between Montresor's Island and the northern shore of 
Long Island, and stood up the Sound; and they were 
followed in the afternoon of the same day by another 
fleet of from forty to fifty sail. The whole force was 
disembarked at Frog's Point, in the extreme southeast 
corner of the Westchester peninsula.^ The withdrawal 
of the army from the vicinity of the American camp, 

if there had been any serious belief in the minds of the authorities that 
the fire was intentional. 

Nothing is known of the antecedents of those who were put to death on 
the night of the conflagration, except in one case only. " There were very 
few inhabitants in the city at that time; and many of those were afraid 
to venture out at night in the streets, fearing of being taken up as sus- 
picious persons. An instance to my knowledge occurred. A Mr. White, 
a decent citizen and house-carpenter, rather too violent a loyalist, who 
latterly had addicted himself to liquor, was on the night of the fire hanged 
on a tavern sign-post at the corner of Cherry and Roosevelt streets." 
That passage occurs in Mr. David Trim's narrative. 

^ These places are all indicated, and the general features of the cam' 
paign portrayed, in the map at the end of this volume. 


and its removal to a new scene of action, were con- 
cealed from hostile eyes by a thick fog which en- 
shrouded land and sea. That circumstance, however, 
neither disturbed nor impeded the naval operations; so 
perfect were Lord Howe's arrangements, and so ad- 
mirable the skill of our sailors, and the discipline of 
our soldiers, amid a maze of tortuous channels and 
rapid and uncertain currents. General Howe spent 
six days in the immediate neighbourhood of the spot 
where he had landed ; while the ships went and came, 
laden with his military stores and provisions, as well as 
with the horses and waggons required for their convey- 
ance on the journey up-country. That interval of time 
may have been well employed ; but, when the advance 
at last began, the forward movement of the British 
was dilatory beyond all explanation or conception. It 
was not until the twenty-fifth of October that their 
columns encamped on Bronx River ; a league, and more, 
to the south of the White Plains. The sun had set 
and risen more than forty times since General Howe 
broke up his summer cantonments on Staten Island. 
In seven weeks, — with an irresistible army, and a fleet 
which there was nothing to resist, — he had traversed, 
from point to point, a distance of exactly thirty miles. 

Thus far into the bowels of the land had he marched, 
but, (unlike the Earl of Richmond in Shakespeare's 
drama,) not without impediment. When Washington 
had assured himself that the war was transferred to the 
mainland which lay to the east of him, he passed his 
army over King's Bridge, and edged it gradually north- 
wards along the right bank of the Bronx River. His 
progress was slow and painful ; for almost all his pro- 
vision of wheel-transport had been abandoned on Long 
Island, or captured by the British in New York ; and 
he could not avail himself of water-carriage because 
Lord Howe's forty-four-gun ships had got past his bat- 
teries on the Hudson River, and had acquired an undis- 
puted mastery of the upper, as well as the lower, reaches. 
With the double object of delaying General Howe's 


advance, and teaching his own troops to stand fire, 
Washington detached strong parties in a southernly 
direction with a commission to watch and, (wherever 
they saw an opportunity,) to harass the enemy. His 
people behaved well in several brisk encounters; and 
they were all the more pleased with themselves because 
their successes were won against a corps of Provincial 
loyalists, who, in their judgement, had no call to help 
the invaders, and against Hessians who had no business 
in the country at all. The activity of the American 
riflemen multiplied their apparent numbers to the im- 
agination of their opponents, and provided Howe with 
a motive, or an excuse, for altogether superfluous 
prudence and deliberation. When he arrived near 
White Plains he found Washington's army already 
planted across his path. He again waited three days ; and 
then, on Monday the twenty-eighth of October, orders 
were issued for a general engagement which, however 
ineffectually it terminated, at all events began in earnest. 
Of that engagement there exist numerous narratives, 
as rich in similes drawn from the phenomena of 
nature as any battle of Homer. " We fired a volley at 
the Hessian Grenadiers at about twenty rods distance, 
and scattered them like leaves in a whirlwind. They 
ran away so far that some of our regiments ran out to 
the ground where they were, and brought off their arms 
and accoutrements, and rum, that the men who fell 
had with them ; which we had time to drink round 
before they came on again." ^ So cheerful was the 
account subsequently transmitted to the newspapers by 
a Gentleman in General Washington's Army ; but that 
army, to all appearance, cannot be said to have en- 
joyed itself greatly at the time. The Americans were 
ill posted ; and their performance was what might be 
expected from raw troops who had some good stuff 
among them. A considerable body of Provincial in- 
fantry with which, (if only it had held its ground,) the 
advancing British would first have come in contact, re- 

1 American Archives ; November 1776. 


treated hastily and in confusion. Howe next assaulted 
a bold and rocky eminence, situated a mile to the 
west of the lines behind which the main force of the 
Americans lay. This isolated height, known as Chat- 
terton's Hill, was occupied by a few slender battalions, 
numbering barely fourteen hundred men, who defended 
the position with coolness and tenacity. They were 
assailed by eight well-drilled regiments, supported by a 
powerful artillery to which they had very inadequate 
means of replying.^ It was afterwards said by the 
Hessian Adjutant General that the German batteries 
made a thunderstorm, in which no man could either see 
or hear ; ^ and the effect, as witnessed from across the 
valley, was still more impressive. The scene, (wrote an 
American officer,) was grand and solemn; the adjacent 
hills bellowed and trembled, and smoked like volcanoes ; 
the air groaned with streams of shot, and echoed with the 
bursting of shells ; and men's limbs and bodies strewed 
the ground, and the fences and walls were torn in pieces. 
All the same, there was plenty of cover left; and the 
Marylandcrs and New Yorkers took steady aim from 
behind it. They and their comrades kept in play five 
regiments which attacked them in front, and retired 
only when three other regiments had turned their left 
flank. They got away safely " in a great body; neither 
running, nor observing the best order." ^ None of their 
wounded, who could stand upon their feet, remained 
behind to be taken. The Delaware regiment, which 
had learned at Long Island that prisoners are not easily 

^ Lieutenant Colonel Haslet, who commanded the Delaware battalion, 
wrote as follows: "The General ordered one field-piece forward, and that 
so poorly appointed that myself was forced to assist in dragging it along in 
rear of the regiment. While so employed a cannon-ball struck the car- 
riage, and scattered the shot about ; a wad of tow blazing in the middle. 
The artillerymen fled. One alone was prevailed upon to tread out the blaze 
and collect the shot." There were three American cannon somewhere on 
the hill ; but that is the only gun of which the history is authentically 

^ The Hessians^ and the other German Auxiliaries of Great Britain 
in the Revolutionary War ; by Edward J. Lowell ; New York, 1884. 

* Memoirs of Major General Heath, 


made unless they make themselves, brought up the rear, 
and fought sullenly and composedly while any of the 
assailants followed them within shooting range. But 
the pursuit was neither long nor fierce. When the 
British and the Germans arrived on the summit of 
Chatterton's Hill, they formed and dressed their line. 
Their arms glittered in the bright sun ; and to the view 
of Washington and the generals around him, who in 
their own camp saw little of war under its ornamental 
aspect, they made a most gallant show. That was the 
end of the battle. Neither on the same day, nor after- 
wards, did Howe thrust his whole army at, and across, 
the American lines with vigour and intention such as 
Frederic displayed against the Austrians at Prague, or 
Wellington against the French on the Nivelle and the 
Bidassoa. The position occupied by Washington on 
the twenty-eighth of October was not strong by nature ; 
and the attempt to make it formidable by art had been 
baffled by the stony character of the soil, which did not 
admit of the ditches being deep or the parapets high.^ 
Though there is, of course, no certainty in war, it is the 
first business of a general to discern, and to decide, what 
risks should be taken. Howe had travelled all the way 
from England in order to destroy the American army ; 
and he now had such a chance at it as never occurred 
again. But in every heap of fresh-turned mould he 
seemed to see the blood-stained earthworks of Bunker's 
Hill ; and he was appalled by the possibility, — the only 
thing in the world of which he was afraid, — that he 
might have to look on at a slaughter of his soldiers from 
that safe distance where, as Commander-in-Chief, he 
himself was in duty bound to remain.^ At White Plains, 

1 History of Westchester County ; Vol. I., page 449. The story of White 
Plains is there told with scrupulous care, and in vast detail. 

'^ Howe's promotion was differently viewed by the ladies of a family 
which had already lost one beloved and revered member in the warfare 
of the American forests. " Mrs. Howe," said Lady Sarah Bunbury, " is 
vastly better since the General was made Commander-in-Chief ; for he is 
at least safe for a time, and safe from bush-fighting, which seemed the 
most to be dreaded as more frequent than a regular action." 


SO far as the affair had gone, there was very little car 
nage. The Americans, who ran, had run so soon, — 
and those who stood had fought so knowingly, — that 
their loss, all told, did not exceed two hundred men. 
Of English and Germans something more than that 
number were killed or wounded ; and particular sym- 
pathy was expressed in the British mess-tents for a 
Colonel of the Thirty-fifth Foot, who was shot dead in 
front of his regiment a short while after he had come 
into a legacy of forty thousand pounds.^ 

Howe had the less reason for omitting to press his 
advantage because he had quite recently obtained some 
fresh troops, who for the most part were eager for bat- 
tle. He was reinforced just before the engagement, in 
the very presence of the enemy, by another division of 
Hessians, four thousand strong ; by the contingent from 
the Principality of Waldeck ; and by two English regi- 
ments of Eight Dragoons. One of them was commanded 
by the Honourable William Harcourt, an accomplished 
leader of cavalry, and an officer whose curious fate des- 
tined him, at the most critical moment of the war, to per- 
form an inestimable ser\'ice to the American cause. It 
is quite unnecessary to say that he was an honourable and 
virtuous man ; seeing that in after years he became, and 
long remained, the intimate personal friend of George the 
Third, who had a very different standard for the compan- 
ions of his private life, and for the instruments of his 
public policy. Colonel Harcourt now, at the age of three- 
and-thirty, was going out to serve his King in buoyant 
humour, and amply provided with all appliances which 
could conduce to his dignity and comfort. He was the 
younger son of the first Earl Harcourt, then Eord Eieu- 
tenant of Ireland, a nobleman of the good old school. 
Rich and public-spirited, Lord Harcourt had raised a regi- 
ment for the defence of the country during the rebellion of 
1745 ; and, when the son became a captain of cavalry, his 
entire troop was enlisted and equipped at the father's 
cost. Now that Colonel Harcourt was sailing for 

"^ Journal Vt^X. during the campaign by Colonel Enoch Markham. 


America in high command there was nothing which his 
family thought too good for him. They wanted to 
marry him to an heiress ; a part of his outfit which he 
emphatically declined to accept.^ His father pressed 
upon him a whole sideboard of plate, from which he 
selected a few useful and portable articles. He took in 
his train a Swiss servant, an old hussar who had smelt 
powder in the Seven Years' War ; a cook who had 
served Lord Dunmore and General Gage ; and a groom 
who had made a sea voyage with horses to the West 
Indies. "Your mind," (so the Colonel informed Lord 
Harcourt,) " will be perfectly at ease when I tell you 
that the transport in which I propose to embark is an 
extreme good sailer, remarkably strong, and very com- 
modious ; and, what is of still more consequence, that I 
am sure of having the Agent of Transports with me. 
In short, I shall have every advantage of a man-of-war, 
without any of its inconveniences."^ 

Harcourt, however, was no carpet soldier. He was 
always prepared to take the rough with the smooth ; 
and on his way out to America he had it very rough 
indeed. He started from Portsmouth late in June; and 
the nineteenth of July found the convoy at Falmouth, 
replenishing water and forage, after two unsuccessful 
attempts to get clear of the Channel. His regiment 
reached New York on the seventh of October, having 
lost on the passage enough horses to have mounted half 
a troop. Harcourt's own chargers, however, bore the 

1 " I could not do more than catch a sight of the girl at Ranelagh. 
With respect to her person, I cannot say it is either disgusting or the con- 
trary ; but I find that the father is a vulgar fellow, and that he has already 
offered his daughter to half a dozen different people, — among whom are 
Charles Fox and Bolingbroke, — who have all of them broken off on the 
subject of Settlement. I am free to declare that I would rather marry an 
amiable woman, whom I liked, than this girl with all her pretensions, and 
what is worse, with all her family." Letter from Colonel Harcourt of 
May 23, 1776. Vol. XII. of the Harcourt Papers ; Edited by Edward 
William Harcourt of Stanton Harcourt, and Nuneham Courtney, in the 
county of Oxfordshire. 

2 Colonel the Hon. W. Harcourt to his father, Earl Harcourt ; Harcourt 
House, April 3, 1776. 


journey well ; and the army was soon talking both of 
them and of him. On a scouting expedition, (for he 
liked to see near-hand and with his own eyes,) he was 
once in imminent danger of being captured ; whereupon 
he put his thorough-bred at a very high fence, knocked 
off the top rail, and rejoined his men in safety. But he 
could ride towards the enemy as well as away from 
them. Great things were expected of the British 
cavalry by the Government at home, and especially by 
Lord George Germaine, the Colonial Secretary ; ^ and 
that expectation was not disajipointcd. At White 
Plains, their eagerness to advance within stroke of 
sabre was a main incentive to that premature retirement 
of the American advance-guard by which the engage- 
ment was prefaced. Indeed, the unexpected apj)arition 
of mounted warriors, among those armies of infantry, 
created an impression somewhat similar to that pro- 
duced by the cavaliers of Pizarro and Cortes upon the 
primitive inhabitants of Peru and Mexico. Washington, 
in grave and measured phrases, confessed that his mili- 
tiamen seemed unacquainted with the enemy's horse, 
and did not meet them with the same alacrity which 
they showed in other cases. Having no dragoons of 
his own, he did his best to combat the apprehensions 
of the soldiers by a General Order. Speaking from his 
long military experience, he assured them that, in a 
broken country full of stone walls, cavalry were the 
least formidable of all adversaries, because they could 
not leave the roads; and he promised them a hundred 
dollars for every trooper whom they could bring in 
prisoner with his horse and his accoutrements. 

A very few days elapsed ; and Howe's opportunity 
for forcing Washington to a battle on Westchester pen- 
insula had finally departed. On the last night of Octo- 

^ " A great man in Administration," (so the Public Advertiser reported,) 
*' whose military knowledge is unquestionable, is said to build his prin- 
cipal hopes as to a conquest of America upon the activity and resolution 
of the British Light Horse ; who, (it is to be presumed,) are to gallop 
somewhat faster than the cavalrv did at Minden." 


ber, the Americans retired to a line of heights a short 
distance in rear of their former position. Felling the 
timber with the energy of a people who, during al- 
most every year of their history, had cleared away as 
much forest as would cover half an English county, — 
and building the trunks into a wall, and interlacing the 
branches into an abattis, with practised dexterity, — in 
an incredibly short space of time they made their front 
as impenetrable as the curtain of a fortress. There 
they awaited the turn of events, in fairly good case, 
and with great and increasing complacency. A Massa- 
chusetts Brigadier told the authorities of his State that 
the Continental troops were stationed on a ridge of hills 
almost inaccessible on the side which faced the enemy, 
and finely covered with woods. Officers and soldiers, 
(so the despatch ran,) were in high spirits, and deter- 
mined not to yield an inch to the invader. The British 
were labouring to out-flank them ; but the General, 
divinely inspired, had been apprised of the design, and 
Howe would soon have to tread his surly steps back to 
the quarter whence he came.^ The Americans, (this 
officer went on to say,) had not more sick than might be 
expected in so numerous an army ; and there was good 
flour, beef, and pork in plenty, with grog to wash it 
down. " A lordly mansion," (a worthy New England 
Colonel wrote,) " never contained more health and con- 
tentment than the little cell, half underground, that I 
occupy here in the fields, dwelling with my own people."^ 
The accounts from the front were so exhilarating that 
civilians at a distance were tempted to visit a scene 
where they might find the pleasure of intense excite- 
ment, combined with every circumstance of security. 

^ The same view had for some while been held by Captain Tilghman, 
who was already an acting aide-de-camp to Washington, and as good a 
judge as most. *' I am really in hopes," (he wrote on the twenty-third of 
October,) "that we have fairly outflanked General Howe. V^e press him 
close to the ground, from which he has made no Westing, in the sea- 
phrase; and if he makes much more Easting, and endeavours to stretch 
across, he will need as large an army as Xerxes to form a line." 

^ Colonel Jedediah Huntingdon of Connecticut to Governor Trumbull. 


"Mrs. Clinton," (her husband was informed,) "has a 
great desire to see the enemy routed. If there is any 
action while she is near camp, she wishes to go on a hill 
and see it, if you should not be engaged in it, which she 
would wish to know at the time." ^ 

A most dangerous optimism, from which the Com- 
mander-in-Chief almost alone was free, reigned through- 
out the American army. As the actual experiences of 
Long Island, and Haerlem, and White Plains, receded 
in the distance, the distressful emotions of battle faded 
from the memory of the common men ; and only a sense 
of self-respect, and even self-admiration, remained. 
The miHtia began to regard themselves as invincible ; 
a persuasion which was accompanied by a strong, and to 
very many of them an uncontrollable, impulse to go back 
to their families, and tell them by word of mouth what 
heroes they had been. The satisfaction which very 
generally prevailed among the higher officers was ex- 
pressed by Charles Lee, in unusually moderate and 
accurate language, when he congratulated Washington 
on the several advantages which their troops had lately 
gained, " though each small, yet in the whole consider- 
able ; encouraging to the army and depressing to the 
enemy." 2 A sudden access of over-confidence, for the 
first and the last time in his military career, had affected 
the masculine intellect of Nathanael Greene. That was 
a very serious matter ; for Greene was no idle or timid 

* Letter of Nov. 3, 1776, from John McKesson to General George 
Qinton, the Governor of New York State. The lady had over-rated her 
courage, A week afterwards the General heard from his niece, Miss 
Mary Tappen. " Mr. Addison," the girl said, " set out last Sunday with 
aunt Clinton for the Camp, but were terrified out of their wits at Fishkill. 
I think they are both cowards. O, Uncle, how much I am distressed 
when I think on the Situation of this country ! Do you think we are in 
great danger here this winter ? " 

2 Lee to Washington; Oct. 27, 1776. Ten days afterwards Lee wrote 
to Benjamin Franklin. " We have," he said, " by proper measures brought 
Mr. Howe to his ne plus ultra. The spirit of our troops is on the whole 
good ; and, if America is lost, it is not, in my opinion, owing to want of 
courage in your soldiers; but, (pardon me,) to want of prudence in Your 
High Mightinesses ! " 


theorist, but a man instinctively impelled to translate his 
ideas, without delay, into vigorous and fearless action. 
Meanwhile General Howe's hesitating strategy, — result- 
ing, as it had done, in a series of small reverses alternat- 
ing with unremunerative successes, — had produced a 
sense of depression in the British ranks. For the first 
time since the campaign opened, our officers had become 
alive to the peculiar difficulties of the task upon which 
they were now engaged. Veterans, who had served with 
Prince Ferdinand in the plains of Western Germany, 
remembered the excellent roads along which Lord 
Granby's cavalry had made forced marches towards the 
sound of the cannon ; and the level forests of scientifi- 
cally planted fir-trees, bare of underwood, which pre- 
sented no unmanageable obstacle to an advancing infantry. 
They contrasted those halcyon days with the week 
which they had lately spent in traversing fifteen miles 
of marsh and thicket, swarming with backwoodsmen 
who seemed positively to enjoy the hazards of partisan 
•warfare, and who spent hours in crawling about to get 
a shot " with their cursed twisted guns," which in their 
hands killed at three times the effective range of a regu- 
lar musket.^ A Colonel of the Guards, who had been 
invalided home within a few days after White Plains, 
told his friends in London that the country was so hilly, 
and the rebels such excellent marksmen, that it was 
almost impossible to catch them. Most of his comrades 
in the Guards, he said, had been very ill with the flux ; 
and General Howe was urgent upon the Secretary at 
War to send him out one more officer for each com- 

If such was the feeling in a crack English regiment, 

^ An English officer who made a special study of the shooting in the 
American war, and who himself gained proficiency with the rifle, said that 
the best hunters of the Indian frontier, in a good light, when there was 
no wind to deflect the bullet, could hit a man's head at two hundred yards, 
or his body at three hundred, with great certainty. 

2 Letter, (hitherto unpublished,) from Captain the Hon. Richard Fitz- 
patrick, to his brother Lord Ossory, in the Russell collection of the Fox 



it may well be believed that dejection and discontent 
prevailed among the less military-minded of the German 
conscripts. '' Our scouting parties," wrote an officer on 
Washington's staff, *'are very active and successful. 
Yesterday they brought in five British prisoners, and 
this morning twelve Waldeckers. The latter are 
amazed at the kind treatment they receive. They say 
they were torn away from their own country, and will 
willingly remain among us. They say that, if their 
fellow-soldiers knew how they would be treated, and 
how plentifully and happily they live, they would lay 
down their arms and come amongst us." These poor 
wretches did not claim to express the sentiments of 
Hessians or Brunsvvickers ; but the event proved that 
they had every title to speak for the Waldeck regiment. 
That regiment, during the next five years, neither did 
nor suffered much ; but at length its turn came. When 
hostilities commenced between England and Spain, the 
Waldeckers were stationed at points along the coast of 
Florida and Louisiana. In September 1781 a detach- 
ment of them capitulated on Lake Pontchartrain, 
and three entire companies at Baton Rouge. There 
is a letter, referring to these occurrences, from the 
head-quarters of the battalion at Pensacola, written 
by their chaplain. *' Is not this a cursed country," 
the reverend gentleman asked, " in which to make 
war, where the greater part of a corps may be pris- 
oners for five weeks, and the commanding general 
not know it with certainty } " Certainty, however, 
soon arrived with the advent of a Spanish fleet, which 
took the town of Pensacola, and captured all that 
remained of the Waldeckers. Europe was ripe for 
the Revolution when a petty German prince could fill 
his purse by sending ship-loads of peasants to fight 
on the Gulf of Mexico, for a cause that was neither 
his nor theirs, against Spaniards who had never before 
even heard of Waldeck, any more than the rank and 
file of the Waldeckers had any intelligent notion about 


The arrival of most re-assuring intelligence from 
another quarter enhanced the hopefulness which already 
permeated the American ranks. While Washington's 
army still lay in Westchester peninsula, it became 
known that, for many months to come, all danger from 
the North was past and over. On the fourth of October 
Sir Guy Carleton set in motion his military and naval 
forces, which were both of them excellent in quality 
and very formidable in numbers. Benedict Arnold was 
already at his post, on the flank of the route which the 
English commander was bound to follow. The American 
war-ships had started from Crown Point badly provided 
in most other respects, but with large and generous 
sailing orders. Arnold was instructed not to go beyond 
a certain distance down the lake ; but everything else 
was left to his enterprise and discretion. He set out in 
a singular humour, and under very remarkable circum- 
stances indeed. The main object of the campaign was 
already as good as accomplished, inasmuch as the fame 
of him, and of his squadron, had delayed Carleton's 
advance during ten precious weeks of summer ; and, on 
the other hand, the impending battle might be reckoned 
by anticipation as a British victory. Compared with 
Carleton's vessels, the American sloops and galleys were 
mere cock-boats ; carrying fewer cannon of smaller 
calibre, unhandy to steer and sail, and beyond any 
comparison less abundantly and effectively manned. 
On the eve of the encounter Arnold was expecting a 
large draft of New England seamen ; but they never 
appeared. " I hope to be excused," (he wrote,) *' if 
with five hundred men, half naked, I should not be able 
to beat the enemy." With ships which could not work 
to windward,^ Arnold shunned the open water, and 
anchored his Armada, (as it was proudly called by 
Americans who were not going to fight on board of it,) 
in the channel between Valcour Island and the western 
shore. He had borrowed Dr. Price's pamphlet on 

1 Richard Varick to General Gates ; Gates to Arnold. American 

Archives for October 1776. 



Civil Liberty, from a friend who had borrowed it ot 
Franklin, to read if ever he found time to repose on his 
cot and nurse his wounded leg; and on deck he enjoyed 
a view which lovers of the romantic now go many miles 
to contemplate. No less a judge than Nathaniel 
Hawthorne rated Lake Champlain as on a level of 
beauty with Windermere, and above Loch Lomond.^ 

At early morning on the eleventh of October the 
sails of the British fleet came into view, moving up the 
lake with a fair breeze behind them. Sir Guy Carleton 
himself was on one of their quarter-decks. As the 
leader of a conjoint expedition, he thought it right to 
share the dangers incurred by both the services for 
whose conduct he was responsible ; but he did not inter- 
fere in matters which lay outside his own profession, 
and the manoeuvres were directed by a post-captain of 
the Royal Navy. The whole squadron swept around 
the southeast point of Valcour Island, placed them- 
selves in rear of the enemy, and tacked, or rowed, up- 
wind towards the mouth of the channel where the 
Americans were stationed. Carleton's lighter craft, 
which were exceedingly numerous, soon drew ahead ; 
and Arnold sallied forth in his flag-ship, (if such a 
name might be applied to a twelve-gun schooner,) in 
order to engage them before their more powerful con- 
sorts could beat up to their assistance. But his crew 
of landsmen ran their vessel aground ; and, at the very 
outset of the affair, he lost the only one of his ships 
which could even by courtesy be termed a man-of-war. 

Arnold transferred himself and his flag to the Con- 
gress, which was nothing more than a rowing galley 
with mast and sails. Half an hour after mid-day a 
score, and over, of Royal gun-boats attacked the 
American line at anchor in the narrow strait. It was 
Aboukir Bay, on a very small scale, and with a tough 
customer on either side. A horde of savages in British 

1 Hawthorne's English Note-books. Valcour Island and Crown Point 
as well as other places in the vicinity of Lake Champlain, are given in the 
map of the Northern Provinces at the end of this volume. 


pay, who filled the woods both on the island and the 
main-shore, kept the air alive with a storm of bullets : 
but their shooting, as usual with the Indians, was detest- 
ably bad ; and Arnold had protected his decks from 
rifle-fire by a barricade of faggots. The English can- 
non, plied carefully and at very close quarters, were a 
more weighty factor in the business of the afternoon. 
Junior officers, who are endowed with dash and emula- 
tion, generally contrive to be among the number of the 
selected whenever a naval brigade goes on special ser- 
vice ; and the squadron on the Canadian station had 
contributed the pick of its ward-rooms and gun-rooms 
in order to increase the efficiency of Carleton's flotilla 
on the Lakes. American sailors, who survived that 
day's work, long talked about the skill with which the 
commander of a certain English boom-ketch chose a 
berth for his vessel, and the precision with which he 
pitched his shells into the hostile batteries. His name 
has not been recorded ; but there was one young fellow 
there present who will be remembered as long as the 
history of the sea is read and written. The Carleton 
schooner, which was under the charge of a lieutenant 
and a pair of midshipmen, alone of the larger British 
ships succeeded in reaching the central spot of the ac- 
tion ; and she was in a very hot place indeed. The two 
senior officers were severely wounded ; and the burden 
of the fight devolved upon Edward Pellew, then a lad 
of nineteen. Forty years afterwards, as Lord Exmouth, 
he bombarded and took Algiers ; and in the course of 
that long interval he established his reputation as the 
most brilliant known example of a frigate-captain.^ 
Pellew's earliest feat in seamanship was to rescue the 
Carleton, on that October evening under Valcour Island, 
from a position of imminent peril ; and he was rewarded 
by being forthwith confirmed in the command of the 
vessel which he had saved. The Americans held their 
own for five livelong hours. There were no trained 
artillerymen on board the Congress ; and Arnold pointed 

^ That is Captain Mahan's expressed opinion. 


every piece himself, stepping rapidly from gun to gun^ 
and discharging them as fast as they could be loaded. 
The British retired at nightfall, having effected a greater 
ruin than they were aware of. The Congress had received 
seven shots between wind and water, and another vessel 
had been hulled so often that she sank at her moorings 
in the twihght. Most of Arnold's ships had nearly all 
their officers killed or disabled ; he had expended three- 
fourths of his ammunition ; and the next morning would 
bring down upon him the whole British fleet, and not 
the gun-boats only. When once the Inflexible, with her 
eighteen cannon and her thick bulwarks, got within 
point-blank range of the Americans, their doom was 

Arnold had no mind to rest passive until his fate 
overtook him so long as a single chance remained ; and 
he still had two advantages left him, for the night was 
hazy, and the wind in his favour. He made his arrange- 
ments with speed, and issued to his subordinates minute 
and precise instructions. The tactics of the backwoods, 
— which he had long ago mastered, and often had prac- 
tised, — were cleverly adapted by him to the require- 
ments of naval warfare. Every light was extinguished, 
except a single lantern upon each poop, to guide the 
ship that followed ; and then the squadron issued forth 
in a formation which might truly be described as Indian 
file. The Congress brought up the rear ; and the entire 
column stole, unobserved and in breathless silence, 
through an interstice in the line of the British fleet. 
The Americans soon got beyond the immediate vicinity 
of their enemy ; but the first stage of the retreat was a 
short one. They bore up at an island some twelve 
miles to the southward, in order to patch their rigging, 
and stop the leaks which would have sent most of them 
to the bottom before ever they reached a haven of 
refuge. The shrouds of the Congress were in tatters, 
and she was all but water-logged ; the other large row- 
ing-galley, the Washington, could with difficulty be kept 
afloat ; and some of their companions were in even sor- 


rier case. Two of the armed barges, classed as " gon- 
dolas " in the technical phraseology employed on those 
inland lakes, had been injured beyond hope of mending, 
and were accordingly scuttled and sunk. The rest of 
the party, on the afternoon of the twelfth of October, 
set forth once more upon their voyage. But it now blew 
from the south ; Arnold's vessels, at their very best, 
had never sailed well except down-wind ; and his 
wearied decimated crews, labouring through the suc- 
ceeding night, made little progress with their oars. In 
the morning of the thirteenth the fog lifted, and dis- 
closed the British fleet crowding down under full sail. 
Sacrificing the half to save the remainder, Arnold sig- 
nalled for the commanders of the sounder vessels in his 
fleet to make good their escape ; while he himself, with 
the crippled portion of it, courted, and obtained, the 
attention of the enemy. Three English ships, carrying 
more than two score of cannon between them, were soon 
within musket shot.^ The Washington struck her 
colours after a few broadsides; but the Congress, and 
four of the gondolas, maintained a running fight during 
several hours, and were then steered into a creek ten 
miles to the north of Crown Point, driven to land, and 
there set on fire. Arnold stayed on board until the 
flames had fairly caught; and then, the last man to 
leave, he clambered along the bowsprit, and dropped 
on to the beach. He always was the last man on such 
occasions. The long tale of his exploits is authentic 
beyond dispute or suspicion ; for it is preserved in the 
public records, and in the national traditions, of a people 
who execrated his memory. 

Arnold did not affect to disguise the magnitude of the 
destruction. *' Of our whole fleet," (so he wrote in his 
official account,) "we have saved only two galleys, two 

1 According to the despatch, brought home by Lieutenant Dacres to 
the British Admiralty, the action of the thirteenth of October was decided 
by the Inflexible, the Carleton, and the Maria ; which last-named vessel 
had Sir Guy on board. The Inflexible was armed with eighteen guns, and 
each of the others with twelve. 


small schooners, one gondola, and one sloop." His 
fellow countrymen repaid his frankness with almost 
universal approbation and gratitude. He had lost them 
a squadron which, but for his personal exertions, would 
never have been built ; and he had lost it to some pur- 
pose. There were those who blamed him for not having 
withdrawn his ships betimes into the comparative safety 
of the upper waters, where the river was protected by a 
cross-fire from the strongholds of Ticonderoga on the 
one bank, and Mount Independence on the other ;^ but 
Arnold's resolution to face a battle had been determined 
by broad and far-seeing considerations. Carleton had 
unduly delayed his onward movement out of respect for 
the preparations which the Americans were making for 
his reception ; and no Enghsh General after him would 
have consented to be hood-winked unless it was clearly 
shown that those preparations, which had been so widely 
and ably advertised, were a reality, and not a sham. 
Gun-boats and galleys, in Arnold's view, were made to 
be expended just as much as cartridges ; and any fate 
would be better for his ships than to skulk away in 
front of the British advance until they were hunted up 
against the shore at the head of Lake George, and there 
trapped and taken like so many wild fowl in a decoy. 
For most assuredly, even at that late season of the year, 
Carleton would not have halted short of Albany, or of 
New York itself, if the Americans, whether on lake or 
land, had made the ignominious confession that they 
were afraid of fighting. 

And again, in a war extending over an endless tract 
of country, — where the occasions for effective action 
were of a sudden and unexpected nature, and in infinite 
variety, — it was something to know that a leader existed 
who was eager to hurl himself at the enemy, and fight 
an almost desperate battle as vigorously and obstinately 
as if victory were not a bare chance, but a cheerful 
probability. The American troops were behindhand in 
drill and discipline ; the American generals had no near 
^ Letter of General William Maxwell from Ticonderoga ; Oct. 20, 1776. 


prospect of a breathing-space during which they might 
improve their organisation, and train their regiments ; 
and it behoved them to supplement the deficiencies of 
the means at their disposal by their own fiery courage 
and invincible pertinacity. Arnold's example aroused 
an outburst of enthusiasm and martial confidence 
throughout the States, and most of all among those of 
his countrymen who were nearest to the danger. On 
the afternoon of the thirteenth of October Colonel 
Hartley, who was in charge at Crown Point, heard the 
reports of heavy guns coming nearer and nearer from 
the north, across the surface of the water. He at once 
sent off his invalids and his baggage ; and, later in the 
day, he fell back upon Ticonderoga. The outside of 
that fortress, — so he, and every one else who had a 
voice in the matter, were firmly determined, — should, 
for that year at least, be the southern limit of the inva- 
sion. " The English," (one officer of the garrison 
wrote,) "are in possession of Crown Point, and we 
expect they may fancy this ground in a day or two. 
They must pay a great price for it, however ; as we 
value it highly." There was a sufficient force at Ticon- 
deroga, and ample stores of food ; and, above all, the 
Americans had got Arnold back among them, with no 
additional bullets in him.^ The first use that he made 
of his shore-legs was to walk round the fortifications, 
which had been scientifically laid out by no less a per- 
sonage than Thaddeus Kosciusko, the Polish patriot, 
who was serving Congress in the capacity of a military 
engineer. But the execution of the plan was not so 
forward as the security of the place demanded ; and 
Arnold set all hands to work on the ramparts and 
ditches, and mounted, in carefully chosen positions, 
every cannon that could be brought to bear. He 
assured Schuyler by letter that General Gates and 
himself took a bright view of the situation. Their 

^ " It has pleased Providence to preserve General Arnold. Few men 
ever met with so many hair-breadth escapes in so short a space of time." 
Gates to Schuyler; Oct. 15, 1776, 


people, (he said,) were daily growing more healthy; 
and if properly supported, they made no doubt of stop- 
ping the enemy. ^ 

It was the opinion of General Phillips, who com- 
manded the British artillery, that, if the proper meas- 
ures had been adopted, Ticonderoga would have fallen 
without a blow. He spoke with every right to be heard. 
In the course of the next summer he himself had the 
satisfaction of proving that his judgement was correct; 
for in July 1777 he dragged his guns to the top of a 
steep and rugged hill overlooking the fortress, and 
Ticonderoga thereupon was unceremoniously abandoned 
by the American garrison. That was an occasion when 
PhilHps, — a veteran who had served in Germany under 
the inspiration of the greatest of war-ministers, — ex- 
hibited to the younger generation a characteristic speci- 
men of what might justly be styled the Chatham touch. 
Carleton, however, in October 1776, considered that he 
had effected, if not enough for one year, at any rate as 
much as the lateness of the season permitted him to 
attempt. I^ven if he could capture Ticonderoga, his 
serious difficulties would only then begin. Co-operation 
with Sir William Howe was the express object of the 
Northern campaign ; and, to do any good, Carleton 
should have been at Albany at least six weeks anterior 
to the date when he actually reached Crown Point. It 
was no light matter, after November had set in, to un- 
dertake a winter expedition across a hundred miles of 
forest; beset on his march, in flank and rear, by gather- 
ing multitudes of frontiersmen, and with an army in 
front of him constantly strengthened by fresh contingents 
of militia pouring in from every province of New Eng- 
land. Nor would the powers of offence possessed by 
the Americans be frittered away, or left unused ; be- 
cause, (whoever might be their titular general between 
one engagement and another,) their fighting line in the 
hour of battle would infallibly be directed by Benedict 
Arnold, a leader equally at home on both elements, 
^ Arnold to Schuyler ; Oct. 15, 1776. 


wherever shot was flying. Carleton almost at once be- 
gan to withdraw his army in the direction of Canada ; 
and on the third of November his rear-guard evacuated 
Crown Point. One very large section of his followers 
accepted his decision with deep and placid resignation. 
The feelings of the Germans were expressed in a letter 
written by General Riedesel to his charming wife, who 
had already got as far as London on her way to join 
him. " Our campaign is at an end ; and I shall go back 
to Three Rivers, where I am to be stationed, and await 
you with the greatest impatience. Oh how happy I 
should be if you came this winter, and I could enjoy 
your pleasant society ! The winter-quarters will be very 
quiet, and I should be able to live entirely for you. 
General Carleton, like a hero, has routed the enemy's 
fleet, having left behind him his whole army. He has 
very properly spared those who are married ; and, if 
this war is carried on in a similar manner next year, I 
shall be surer of my Hfe in the midst of it than upon the 
parade grounds of Wolfenbiittel and Brunswick." 

A cry of relief and delight went up from every town 
and village in America where adherents of the Revolu- 
tion dwelt. Washington, indeed, was convinced that, 
although a part of the danger had been removed, the 
nation would have to fight for dear hfe before the winter 
was over ; and he very soberly and briefly congratulated 
the President of Congress upon the important intelli- 
gence that General Carleton had been obliged to return 
to Canada empty-handed.^ The popular sentiments 
and hopes were declared in much more exultant lan- 
guage by Robert Morris of Philadelphia, who had ordi- 
narily as cool a head as any statesman of his time and 
party. ** If you keep your ground," (so Morris wrote 
to General Gates,) " I think General Washington will 
keep his ; and if both do this for the present Fall, and ensu- 
ing Winter, the good news I mean to tell you will be 
verified. It is that the French are undoubtedly disposed 
to assist us in this contest ; and I have little doubt but 

^ Washington to the President of Congress ; Peekskill, Nov. 11, 1776. 


that they will take part in the war next summer.** The 
news of Carleton's retreat was received in England with 
extreme disappointment and vexation. Lord George 
Germaine hated the Governor of Canada, who had de- 
clined to job for him, and whose contempt for his char- 
acter most disagreeably flavoured the tone of the official 
despatches which reached the Colonial Office from 
Quebec. It would have gone very hard with Carleton 
if his Sovereign had thrown him over ; but George the 
Third, in words which became him, told Lord North 
that in a certain breast there was a great prejudice, not 
unaccompanied by rancour, against Sir Guy ; but that 
to recall him from his Government was a cruel sugges- 
tion, which the exigency did not authorise.^ The King 
knew honest men when he found them, and cherished 
them so long as they would consent to carry on his 
policy. Carleton's methods were not the Royal meth- 
ods ; but the master never forgot that his servant's 
large-minded prudence had kept the province of Canada 
inviolate and obedient, amid the crash and wreck of his 
transatlantic dominions. Burgoyne, on the other hand, 
whom Lord George Germaine and his clique industri- 
ously put forward as a rival to Carleton, was not in high 
favour at the Court of St. James's.^ The inevitable 
sequel of a military disaster in America was the speedy 
re-appearance in London of that very restless General, 
who was so keen to give his own version, and to shift the 
responsibility from his own shoulders. Before the mid- 
dle of December Burgoyne was already about town, 
closeted with Secretaries of State, and insinuating in 
club and drawing-room that a bold and skilful strategist, 
with an eye for country, could easily cut the rebellion in 
two by operating in the neighbourhood of Saratoga. 

^ George the Third to Lord North; Queen's House, December 13, 1776: 
10 minutes past 9 a.m. 

2 •♦ Lord George Germaine's people rail against Sir Guy most furiously, 
and Lord North's friends seem most displeased that General Burgoyne's 
reception at Court was not gracious. There are certainly as great jealous- 
ies between the two ministers as between the two generals." Fitzpatrick 
to Ossory ; December 1776. 


But he did not succeed, to any visible degree, in raising 
the spirits of fashionable and influential persons. " Can- 
did people," (so Captain Fitzpatrick wrote to his brother 
Lord Ossory,) '* will see the impracticability of the war 
more clearly than ever ; for the Canada expedition has 
certainly proved ineffectual, although attended with all 
the success they could hope. Burgoyne is not very 
communicative ; and it is easy to perceive that he and 
Carleton are not friends. I believe Ministry are not 
over and above satisfied with the conclusion of their 
successful campaign." 

The belief that the campaign was already concluded, 
which was held both in London and in Philadelphia, 
accorded neither with the intentions of the British 
General, nor with the apprehensions of his adversary. 
Washington was seldom prone to entertain illusions ; 
and he never had fewer of them than in the first week 
of November 1776. He made an official report to the 
effect that the situation was critical and alarming. The 
dissolution of his army, (so he foretold,) was fast ap- 
proaching. Large numbers were on the eve of their 
departure, at a time when the enemy had a very numer- 
ous and formidable force, watching an opportunity to 
execute their plans for spreading ruin and devastation 
throughout the Confederacy.^ Those were far-reaching 
words ; but they fell short of the portentous reality. 
On the twenty-first of September the American returns 
showed sixteen thousand rank and file fit for duty ; on 
the thirtieth of September there were fifteen thousand ; 
and on the third of November under thirteen thousand 
five hundred. Only a few score soldiers had been killed 
or wounded ; and a less creditable reason was required 
to account for the enormous waste of these six weeks, 
during which the men had never been under-fed, and so 
far from over-marched they had only travelled twenty 
miles since they first left their cantonments at Haerlem. 

1 Washington to the Assembly of Massachusetts ; White Plains, Nov. 6j 


The cause of the diminution of the American army 
was written in very legible characters over the face of 
the district in which it was stationed ; for gentlemen, 
who went on a visit to their friends at White Plains, 
were encountered along every road by a stream of 
militiamen, setting steadily away from camp. Wash- 
ington, when he took his rides abroad, was surprised 
and shocked at secini^ officers and soldiers stragghng 
all about the neighbourhood on one idle pretence and 
another ; and most of them, so soon as they found 
themselves well beyond the American outposts, ceased 
to straggle, and plodded stubbornly homewards to their 
native villages in New Hampshire or Connecticut. This 
wholesale exodus soon attracted the attention of Euro- 
pean military gossips, who had a great idea of Washing- 
ton's genius, and a very sujDerficial acquaintance with 
his difficulties. A London newspaper announced that 
General Washington had dismissed eleven thousand men 
to their respective farms, in order that agriculture might 
not suffer for want of labour. That sage commander, 
(so it was asserted,) had no fear that he could not hold 
his own against the invader; for he had retained with 
the colours two-and-twenty thousand troops, the flower 
of American chivalry. That estimate of Washington's 
numbers was ludicrously inaccurate : but it was literally 
true that the spontaneous chivalry of his troops would 
before very long be his only resource; for they were on 
the point of being released from all legal obligation to 
defend their country. Most of his battalions had been 
called out for six months ; and the last of those months 
was November. Howe was poorly informed by his 
spies ; but he knew the date at which the American 
militia had been embodied, the period for which they 
were bound to serve, and their very marked propensity 
to anticipate, rather than to postpone, the moment of 
liberty. It might be taken for granted that, with these 
facts before him, the British General would not prema- 
turely retire into winter quarters. That was not all, nor 
the worst either. The regular Continental regiments, 


raised during the siege of Boston, had been enlisted for 
the year which expired on the thirty-first of December ; 
and Washington thenceforward would have nothing on 
which to rely except the voluntary patriotic devotion of 
a handful of personal followers.^ 

While the Provincial troops dwindled hour by hour in 
quantity, their quality, in one serious respect, deteri- 
orated rather than improved. Their equipment was 
deplorable ; their preparatory training had stopped far 
below that line of perfection which befitted them to 
take the offensive against well-found regular soldiers ; 
and men of experience and perception in both camps 
were well aware that an army, which is reduced to 
stand upon the defence, must sooner or later be dis- 
comfited. That view was clearly enforced in a letter 
addressed to the authorities of his State by a Maryland 
colonel, who, like a true-bred Southerner, attributed 
perils which arose from the cruelty of fate to the un- 
wisdom of the Northern generals. " Instead of instruct- 
ing their troops in miHtary discipline, preparing and 
encouraging them to meet their enemies in the fields 
and woods, they train them to run away, and make 
them believe they never can be safe unless under cover 
of an intrenchment, which they would rather extend 
from the North to the South Pole than risk an engage- 
ment. Discipline is totally neglected ; and yet, after 
all, it is the only bulwark in war. Had our troops been 
trained better, and worried less with the pickaxe and 
the spade, by this time our army would have been in a 
condition to have sought the enemy in turn. This can- 
not be the case under our present system." ^ 

^ Colonel Robert H. Harrison to the President of Congress ; Washing- 
ton's General Order ; George Clinton to John McKesson, Esq. All these 
documents are dated on the same day of October 31, 1776. 

" I do not understand," (General Chnton wrote,) " much of the refined 
art of war. This nevertheless is too obvious. The enemy are daily in- 
creasing their army by new recruits in those parts of the country which 
they have already acquired, whilst ours are daily decreasing by sickness, 
deaths, and desertion. Add to this, one month more disbands a considera- 
ble part of our army. How a new one will be recruited God only knows." 

2 Colonel Smallwood to the Maryland Council of Safety ; October 1776. 


The policy on which this gentleman animadverted 
was not a matter of system, but of imperative necessity. 
Northern, as well as Southern, generals understood the 
full advantages of drill and discipline. Lord Stirling 
was something too much of a martinet; Nathanael 
Greene had read his Manual of Exercises even more 
assiduously than his Plutarch ; and Washington would 
gladly have given all he was worth in the world for a 
score of regiments which could march like the English 
Footguards. But time and place alike were wanting to 
convert his improvised levies into orderly and obedient 
veterans, wheeling like clock-work, and springing auto- 
matically to the word of command. The fields above 
Haerlem, and behind White Plains, did not afford as 
secure a parade-ground as Hyde Park or Hounslow 
Heath. If the Provincials had neglected to intrench 
their front while their com])anics were instructed in 
platoon-firing, and their battalions were being taught to 
counter-march, the first sham-fight in which they in- 
dulged themselves would have been quickly turned into 
a very real catastrophe by a forward movement of the 
British infantry. The American commander erelong 
gave striking evidence of the high value which he 
attached to the routine of military training. In 1778, 
during Howe's occupation of Philadelphia, — when the 
interposition of twenty miles of country, and the ascer- 
tained indolence of the l^ritish General, placed Wash- 
ington in a position of comparative security, — the 
Continental soldiers had no sooner emerged from the 
worst hardships of that terrible winter than they were 
subjected to a strict course of exercises and manoeuvres. 
It was in the stern and rude work-shop of Valley Forge 
that Washington fashioned his army into a weapon of 
rare temper and flexibility. But, during the operations 
on Manhattan Island and Westchester Peninsula, he 
was pressed by an enemy of overpowering strength, 
whose advanced parties were seldom many furlongs dis- 
tant from his line of sentries ; and his solitary resource 
was to stave off ruin from day to day by keeping his 


troops behind earthworks which, (although novices in 
war,) they were skilful to construct and competent to 

Howe, on his part, was firmly resolved to bring the 
Americans into the open, and try what they were worth, 
man to man. He went to work betimes. Before Oc- 
tober ended he despatched General Knyphausen and 
two brigades of Hessians, with directions to cross King's 
Bridge, and establish themselves in the northern corner 
of Manhattan Island. In the night of the third of No- 
vember the Provincial sentinels heard a rumbling of car- 
riages within the British lines ; and, on the morning of 
the fifth, Howe, who had already sent off his stores and 
train, broke up his encampment, and transferred the 
Royal army to Dobb's Ferry on the Hudson river. He 
there was in a position either to cover an attack upon 
Fort Washington ; or to force his way up-country to 
Albany ; or to pass to the opposite bank by aid of his 
brother's fleet, and march straight upon Philadelphia, 
where he might strike the rebellion in the heart. Wash- 
ington, when the alarm reached him, called his generals 
into council, and arranged a provisional disposition of 
his army which was reasonably well calculated to meet 
each of those three contingencies. He threw one corps 
across the river to the westward, and stationed it at 
Hackensac in New Jersey under the command of Put- 
nam. Heath and his division were sent north to Peeks- 
kill, with orders to fortify, and to hold, the pass where 
the stream of the Hudson penetrates the gorges of the 
Highlands in the neighbourhood of West Point. Charles 
Lee meanwhile remained near White Plains, with seven 
thousand men, under strict injunctions to keep himself 
in readiness for co-operating promptly in whatever direc- 
tion Washington, when the future grew clearer to his 
mind, might subsequently determine. 

The operations on Westchester Peninsula were sig- 
nalised by no very dramatic or decisive military inci- 
dents ; but events had there taken place, not greatly 
noticed at the time, which, in such a war as then was 

VOL. U. 


being waged, had more effect upon the ultimate result 
than half a dozen battles. A portion of both armies had 
seriously misbehaved themselves ; and the gravest and 
most permanent consequences ensued from the very 
divergent spirit in which that misbehaviour was regarded 
by their respective generals. Westchester County every- 
where presented an aspect of long-settled and well- 
ordered prosperity. The manor-houses, and the better- 
most of the farmhouses, had nothing in and about them 
which was new, or cheap, or shabby. The carved wain- 
scots ; the old grates encased in tiles re|)resenting Scrip- 
ture scenes, with fender and andirons of solid brass as 
brilliant as hands could make them ; the heavy furniture 
of mahogany and stamped leather ; the tall eight-day 
clocks of gilded ebony ; the mirrors loaded with florid 
mouldings, which no one with a pure taste in art would 
have devised, but which, when they had hung on the 
wall for a century, no one who had the sense of associa- 
tion would ever part with ; the perfection of needlework 
in the curtains, the screens, the cushions, and more es- 
pecially in the bed-quilts ; the glass cuj^boards with their 
display of antique plate, and high-coloured Lowestoft 
porcelain ; the Delft-ware, the pewter, the copper vessels, 
the great wooden bowls for kitchen use, which the Ind- 
ians fashioned from the knots of the nuiple tree; — 
everything was solid, everything was genuine, and, above 
all, everything was scrupulously and religiously clean. 
For the mansions of the country gentlemen, and the 
dwellings of their leading tenants, were maintained up 
to a standard of neatness surpassing the extreme point 
even of Anglo-Saxon respectability. There was a very 
large Dutch element in the population ; and Dutch Chris^ 
tian names, and surnames, may still be read in large 
numbers at the foot of the Addresses and Resolutions 
which went across the Atlantic to assure King George 
of the affection with which he was regarded by his good 
people of Westchester. The fittings and utensils of these 
old-world habitations were daintily kept ; but they were 
kept for use. There often was only too much mulled 


wine in the silver tankards, and rack-punch in the china 
bowls. At Christmas the stupendous brick ovens were 
filled three times a day; — first with generous loaves of 
wheat and rye ; then with chicken, and quail, and veni- 
son pasties ; and lastly with long rows of fruit and mince- 
pies. At the back of the furnace was a huge log, which 
had been transported thither by the united efforts of 
several serving men ; and the iron dogs were piled with 
a blazing mass of hickory billets, in front of which tur- 
keys, and geese, and large joints of meat, were turned 
on the spits by one of the little negroes who peopled 
the kitchen of every great homestead.^ 

Nowhere in Europe, nor in America, was there more 
universal ease and plenty, or a larger infusion of that 
natural and sincere conservatism which is based upon 
content. Westchester County, and no wonder, was to 
a marked degree a Loyalist district. The ablest of the 
Tory controversialists, — who evoked in the greatest in- 
tensity the enthusiasm of his own party, and the anger 
of the other, — had pubUshed a famous series of pam- 
phlets under the title of a Westchester Farmer. That 
was the appellation adopted by the Reverend Samuel Sea- 
bury, the Rector of St. Peter's Church in the town of 
Westchester, who endured a very hot persecution at the 
hands of his Whig adversaries with dignified fortitude. 
His character and conduct won for him in many quarters 
a tribute of sympathy and respect, which gradually deep- 
ened into a sentiment little short of reverence. After 
the Revolution he was chosen as the first Bishop of the 
Protestant Episcopal Church in America; a function 
which he long and worthily discharged.^ 

Seabury was a farmer only in the sense that he culti- 
vated his glebe ; but he knew how farmers thought, and 
he could write what they cared to read. Neither Cobbett 

^The substance, and much of the language, in this paragraph are 
taken from a chapter on the manners and customs of Westchester County, 
by Mr. Thomas Scharf. 

2 Tyler's Literary History; Vol. I., chapter xv. History of West* 
Chester County ; pages 600 and 601. 



nor Cobden ever clothed an economical proposition in 
more pithy and homely words than Seabury's argument 
against the commercial policy of the Continental Con- 
gress in September 1774. Congress, by way of retali- 
ation for the tea-duty, had recommended an agreement 
against exporting goods to Great Britain and Ireland. 
That agreement, (so the Westchester farmer truly as- 
serted,) would ruin the market for American flax-seed, 
— a commodity for which the Ulster Irish had always 
been the best customers. That very year, according to 
his own account, he had threshed and cleaned up eleven 
bushels of the seed. ** The common price now is at least 
ten shillings. My seed, then, will fetch me five pounds 
ten shillings. But I will throw in the ten shillings for 
expenses. There remain five pounds. In five pounds 
are four hundred three-pences. Four hundred three- 
pences, currency, will pay the duty upon two hundred 
pounds of tea, — even reckoning the exchange with Lon- 
don at two hundred per cent. I use in my family about 
six pounds of tea. Few farmers in my neighbourhood 
use so much ; but I hate to stint my wife and daughters, 
or my friendly neighbours when they come to see me. 
Besides, I like a dish of tea too, especially after a little 
more than ordinary fatigue in hot weather. Now two 
hundred pounds of tea, at six pounds a year, will just 
last thirty-three years and four months ; so that, in order 
to pay this monstrous duty on tea, which has raised all 
this confounded combustion in the country, I have only 
to sell the produce of a bushel of flax-seed once in thirty- 
three years." ^ 

The political opinions, which Seabury humorously 
and fearlessly expressed in print, were held by a very 
large proportion of those agriculturists who tilled the 
soil of the peninsula on which, during the last fortnight 
of October and the first week of November, the Royal 
and the Republican armies were contending. Before the 
war broke out these Westchester copyholders enrolled 
themselves by their hundreds in Loyal Associations ; 

* Tyler's Literary History ; Vol. I., chapter xv., section 3. 


and they proclaimed their attachment to the Throne, 
and their detestation of revolutionary principles, in very 
spirited language, and at the inordinate length which 
was usual in all public documents issued on either side 
of the question in every colony.^ When the poll for 
delegates to Congress was held at White Plains, a long 
procession marched from the Tory tavern to the Court- 
house, lodged a protest against the legality of the pro- 
ceedings, and returned, " singing, as they went, the 
grand and animating Song of 

God save great George our King ! " 

Armed parties scoured the country at night, throwing 
down Whig fences, and cropping the manes and tails of 
horses which grazed in Whig paddocks. And, — when 
the New York Committee of Safety had parked near 
King's Bridge all the artillery which could be collected 
in their city, — the custodians awoke one morning to 
find the guns spiked, and most of them with large stones 
rammed forcibly down their muzzles. Several hundred 
cannon had been thus treated ; and the number of 
persons concerned was notoriously very large. Many 
arbitrary arrests were made, and very harsh means 
were adopted in order to induce confession, or to extort 
testimony ; but the exploit was so much in unison with 
public opinion in Westchester County that the Revolu- 
tionary authorities were unable to bring the charge 
home to a single one of the perpetrators. 

The welcome extended to the Royal army by the 
rural population of Westchester County did not outlast 
their first experience of the very peculiar conduct by 
which some of our soldiers, and notably our foreign 

1 The creed of Westchester Toryism is vigorously expounded in a couple 
of sentences extracted from one of these manifestoes. " Let us of Cort- 
landt's Manor clear ourselves of the general imputation. We never con- 
sented to Congresses or Committees ; we detest the destruction of private 
property ; we abhor the proceedings of riotous and disorderly people ; 
and, finally, we wish to live and die the same loyal subjects that we have 
ever been to his most Sacred Majesty George the Third." 


auxiliaries, were accustomed to requite hospitality. 
" The enemy have treated all here without discrimi- 
nation. The distinction of Whig and Tory has been 
lost in one general scene of ravage and desolation." ^ 
Those were Washington's words. They have obtained 
that corroboration, which a statement made by him 
never needs, from narratives written by prominent oppo- 
nents of the American Revolution ; for the story of the 
usage inflicted upon Loyalists in Westchester County 
by the Royal army is mainly derived from Loyalist 
sources. The work of devastation commenced with 
the smaller live-stock. Most Hessian regiments con- 
tained veterans of the Seven Years' War who long ago 
had learned how to find their way about the inside of a 
hen-roost ; and the poultry yards were at once ransacked 
without any plea of military necessity, except the neces- 
sity which a grenadier felt to have a duck or a capon 
for his supper. The herds and flocks were next con- 
verted into beef and mutton, without a single halfpenny 
of payment to their owners ; and the Germans especially 
luxuriated at free quarters in a country district which 
was noted for the curing of hams, and the manufacture 
of sausage-meat. Emboldened by impunity, the spoiler 
soon carried his operations into the inmost recesses of 
the home. The grand parlour of the Dutch household, — 
an apartment sacredly reserved for occasions of high 
ceremony, — was profaned and pillaged without any 
consideration for the political creed of the inmates. 
Those fine white tiles of the Van Cortlandt Manor- 
house, which are still prized as specimens of old colonial 
decoration, were torn from their sockets, and used as 
platters by the soldiery. Before three weeks had passed, 
the people of Westchester, though untouched in life and 
limb, were as utterly denuded and impoverished as if an 
incursion of Iroquois and Seneca warriors had swept the 
county. The Royal army was attended by a train of 
loose women, mostly brought from Europe, but in part 

1 Washington to Governor Livingston of New Jersey ; White Plains, 
November 7, 1776. 


recruited from the least reputable streets of certain 
American sea-ports. Their presence at Boston had, 
of recent years, contributed not a little to unite that 
sober and austere community in its aversion to a mili- 
tary occupation. When this flock of harpies descended 
upon the villages of a quiet country-side, — with their 
intimate knowledge of what was worth taking, and of 
the most likely places in which to find it, — the losses 
endured by a decent housewife were aggravated by a 
sense of altogether intolerable insult. These odious 
hussies have been described by indignant American 
Loyalists in the round and downright phrases which 
Smollett and Fielding so liberally employed, and which, 
when treating such a topic, might be permitted even to 
the delicacy of a modern author.^ 

Joseph Galloway, an eminent Tory lawyer and poli- 
tician, was expelled by popular violence from his home 
in Pennsylvania, and forced to seek a refuge in England. 
He there faithfully and boldly served the Royal cause 
by his pen ; and he was not sparing in his remonstrances 
against the excesses and errors by which that cause was 
disgraced and enfeebled on the further side of the At- 
lantic Ocean. He confessed with shame that, in the 
parts of America to which our armies had penetrated, 
friend and foe, ally and rebel, had met with the same 
fate; — *'a series of continued plunder," (such was his 
actual language,) that could not fail to create dislike, 
even in the breast of fidelity, to a service which, under 
the pretence of giving the Loyalists protection, robbed 
them in many instances even of the necessaries of life.^ 

1 Volume I. of the History of New York during the Revolutionary 
War, by Thomas Jones, Justice of the Supreme Court of the Province. 

The first paragraph of the seventh chapter contains some very outspoken 
remarks. The part played by " the vi^ives and mistresses " of the soldiers 
in the spoliation of Westchester County is related by Mr. Henry Dawson, 
that fair-minded and painstaking writer of our own generation, whose 
syiin^cLiiica are strongly with the rural Tories of 1776. 

2 Joseph Galloway's " Reply to the Observations of Lieutenant General 
Sir William Howe on a Pamphlet entitled Letters to a Nobleman ; in which 
his Misrepresentations are detected, and those Letters are supported by a 
variety of new Matter and Argument." 


The faults, at first, were not all on one side ; and it 
seemed probable that, unless speedy measures of repres- 
sion were taken by the commanders of both armies, the 
unfortunate civil population would be ground to powder 
as between the upper and the nether mill-stone. A cer- 
tain number of the Americans, both men and officers, 
had been guilty of grave irregularities. Their Adjutant 
General complained feelingly that those who enforced 
discipline upon new troops, among whom the principles 
of democracy so universally prevailed, must expect to 
be calumniated and detested.^ But Congress had se- 
lected a general who was not afraid of his own men. 
Washington was sternly resolved that inhumanity and 
dishonesty should not go unchecked on the plea that 
they were sins to which the soldiers of democracy were 
especially prone. In September 1776, he cashiered an 
ensign '' for the infamous crime of plundering the in- 
habitants of Haerlem;" on the last day of October he 
issued a fiery proclamation, threatening severe penalties 
against officers who had taken horses off the Westchester 
farms, and appropriated them to their own private use ;^ 
and, a week later on, he seized his opportunity for 
making an example of some culprits high in rank, and 
thereby administered a death-blow to systematic bri- 
gandage in the armies which he personally commanded. 

The watchers at Fishkill, on the Hudson river above 
West Point, reported that, from six in the evening of 
the fifth of November until very late, the glare of a 
great fire had been seen in the southeast quarter, and 
that fears were entertained for the safety of the town of 
Rye.^ As a matter of fact, the light came from a nearer 
point on the horizon. No sooner was it rumoured in 

1 Colonel Reed to his wife; October 11, 1776. 

2 " Can it be possible that persons bearing Commissions, and fighting 
in such a cause, can degrade themselves into plunderers of horses? The 
General hopes every officer will set his face against it in future, and does 
insist that the Colonels, and commanding officers of Regiments, imme- 
diately inquire into the matter, and report to him who have been guilty of 
these practices." 

* John McKesson to General George Clinton; Fishkill, November 5, 1776. 


Washington's camp that Howe had evacuated his posi- 
tion at White Plains than a parcel of militiamen, — prin- 
cipally drawn, it is to be feared, from the State of 
Massachusetts, — under the command of a certain 
Major Austin, descended upon the village in order to 
give their political opponents a lesson, and pay them- 
selves very handsomely for the trouble of teaching it. 
They began by plundering ; and a curiously exact inven- 
tory of their acquisitions is still in existence. One 
woman lost two skips of bees, forty-three pounds of 
butter, a lead glue-pot, and a tea canister, which in that 
Loyalist region was probably well filled. Another was 
robbed of ten yards of taffeta, a light blue silk quilt, a 
satin cloak, a white satin hat, and all her father's title- 
deeds and papers. When the larders and wardrobes 
had been stripped bare, the inhabitants, young and old, 
were turned out of doors, and fire was put to the eaves. 
One lady, in her distress, hung on the Major's arm, and 
appealed to his honour as a soldier ; but he shook her 
off, and cursed her for a Tory. The Court-house, the 
Presbyterian Meeting House, and the greater part of 
the private dwellings, were destroyed. Major Austin 
afterwards admitted that he had received no orders to 
burn houses from any superior authority ; and General 
Heath, at the time, noted in his journal that the outrage in- 
spired great disgust in the whole of the American army.^ 
The very next morning Washington eagerly assured 
that army that his sentiments on the matter were the 
same as theirs. It was with the utmost astonishment 
and abhorrence, (he announced,) that the General had 

^ Something has been made of a letter written on the seventh of 
November by Colonel Huntingdon to Governor Trumbull of Connecticut, 
in which the Colonel spoke with satisfaction of " the burning of a few 
houses;" but the letter expressly relates to circumstances which accom- 
panied the retirement of the Americans from White Plains on the thirty- 
first of October. On that occasion General Heath, by orders from Wash- 
ington, destroyed the barracks which the Continental troops had themselves 
erected for their own accommodation ; as well as some barns and a house, 
containing forage and public stores, which there was no tim$ to remove 
before the enemy entered the place. 


been informed how some base and cowardly wretches 
last night set fire to the Court-house, and other build- 
ings, which the enemy had abandoned. Their com- 
rades, however, might rely upon it that the criminals 
should be brought to justice, and meet with the punish- 
ment they deserved.^ Those were no idle menaces. 
Amid all the reverses and anxieties which now came 
thick upon him, Washington never for a moment lost 
sight of Major Austin. A Court-martial sat ; and, when a 
hitch in the proceedings occurred, another was convoked. 
Austin was dismissed from the service, and delivered over 
to the civil authorities of his native State, by whom he was 
committed to prison on a charge preferred under the 
ordinary law. Condign punishment was inflicted upon 
another officer, who appears to have been a favourite 
among the worst of the rank and file. When the marauders 
were dividing the booty, they were overheard to say that 
Captain Ford must have an equal share, although he had 
already secured for himself " quite a number of little no- 
tions." He was accordingly allotted a green silk gown, 
and other valuable articles ; but he soon found his way 
into the common gaol of Dutchess County in the State 
of Pennsylvania, where history has left him to languish.^ 
Sir William Howe, speaking in Parliament after his 
return to England, claimed to have taken every means 
to prevent the devastation and destruction of the coun- 
try, and reminded his hearers that he had been severely 
condemned by certain persons for the tenderness with 
which he had treated rebels.^ Merciful and kindly by 
nature he undoubtedly was. The political party, to 
which he belonged, held that America could never be 
reclaimed by severity ; and the men, and the women 
too, with whom he habitually lived when in London, 
did not conceal their disapprobation of harsh and vio- 
lent measures.* But he was lazy and careless ; and he 

1 General Order; Head-quarters, White Plains, November 6, 1776. 
' American Archives for November 1776. 
■ Sir William Howe's speech of April 22, 1779. 

* Lady Sarah Bunbury asked whether there ever was such a brute as 
General Burgoync, who could find time to compose his bombast nonsense 


shrank from the unpopularity which a strict disciplina- 
rian must always be prepared to face. The allegation 
that Howe was very slow to reprove or punish even 
those excesses, which were committed within the range 
of his personal observation, rests upon the most unim- 
peachable authority. The Honourable Thomas Jones, 
one of the Royal Judges in the Supreme Court of New 
York Province, was an ardent and lifelong Loyalist. 
He did not love, and had no reason to love, the Revolu- 
tionary party in America ; his relations with whom may 
properly, and Hterally, be described as internecine. 
When the war was over, his life was declared forfeit, 
and his estate was confiscated, by the New York Act 
of Attainder ; and he, on the other hand, has left on 
record his opinion that the twenty-six hundred Provincial 
soldiers, who were taken prisoners at Fort Washington, 
should all have been put to the sword.^ He consoled 
his exile, which only ended at his death, by compiling 

about his rapid advance of eighteen miles in a fortnight, while he neglected 
to allay the anxieties of friends at home by sending to the War Office a 
return of the killed and wounded. " Only think too of the horrors of em- 
ploying the Indians, and allowing them to fight their own way ! I am 
not much pleased with my friend Sir William Howe neither; for, though 
a most humane man himself, he has not contrived to keep strict discipline 
in his army." That was what the mother of the Napiers wrote; and that 
was what her sons were brought up to think. They were not the worse 
soldiers on account of it. 

Lady Sarah's detestation of cruelty was quite impartial. She had 
been taken in by the amazing legend which was circulated in London 
after the battle of Lexington. '* I suppose," she wrote, " you are viollent 
for your American friends. I hope they are a good sort of people, but I 
don't love presbetiryans, and I love the English soldiers, so that I at 
present have a horror of those who use them ill beyond the laws of war, 
which scalping certainly is." Letter of July 6, 1775, ^^ ^^^ Correspond- 
ence of Lady Sarah Lennox, published by the Countess of Ilchester and 
Lord Stavordale. The editors have placed before the reader full and well 
ordered materials for forming an opinion about a charming personality; 
and they then have courteously and wisely left him to form that opinion 
for himself. 

^ ** The most rigid severity at the first would have been the greatest 
mercy and lenity in the end. How did Oliver Cromwell conquer Ireland? 
By the storm of Drogheda, and putting every soul to the sword. Had 
this precedent been followed at Fort Washington in November 1776, 
America would have been this day still a territory of Great Britain." 
Jones's History of New York ; Volume II., chapter ii. 



a vast history of his native province and city, from the 
commencement of the disturbances down to the Treaty 
of Peace in September 1783. Judge Jones was a landed 
proprietor in Long Island ; and he has borne testimony 
to the surprise and disappointment of the residents in 
that well-affected district when it was brought home to 
their perceptions that plunder was rather encouraged 
than discouraged by some principal officers of the Royal 
army. He relates how a gentleman of fortune and 
character, as warm and faithful a subject of the Crown 
as ever had an existence, possessed a horse worth at 
least a hundred and fifty guineas, a descendant of the 
famous Wildair. An English cavalry colonel saw, and 
fancied, the animal ; told the owner to dismount in the 
middle of the road, and hand the horse over to his own 
orderly ; and bade him thank his stars that he was 
allowed to keep the saddle. All the fat cattle on the 
island, including those belonging to Judge Jones him- 
self, were seized for the use of the troops. " The 
owners," (the Judge wrote,) *' grumbled not. The chief 
of them were steady Loyalists, and were happy in hav- 
ing it in their power to assist the Royal army. Upon 
the close of the campaign applications were made for 
payment, agreeable to the General's promises. Not- 
withstanding which, in violation of his word, and of the 
public faith by him pledged, not a man ever received a 
farthing. Some of the applicants were damned for 
rebels, and ordered about their business. Others were 
threatened with the Provost Marshal for their impu- 
dence. Others were told their only remedy was against 
the original captors, and to them they might apply for 
redress." ^ 

So it was on Long Island ; so it had been during the 
still earlier occupation of Staten Island ; and, by the 
time Howe entered New York city, violence and ra- 
pacity were ingrained habits among an ever-increasing 
proportion of his army. The troops broke open the 
City Hall, and carried away the books, and the mathe- 

1 Jones's History of New York ; Volume I., chapter vi. 


matical and philosophical apparatus, belonging to the 
College, which had been stored in that building for 
greater safety; and a collection of good pictures shared 
the same fate. They plundered likewise the Corpora- 
tion library, and the subscription library of the town, 
containing between them no fewer than sixty thousand 
volumes, which were publicly hawked about for sale 
by private soldiers, and by their female companions. 
Judge Jones relates that he might have acquired a law 
library for next to nothing ; and he saw in a drink-shop 
near forty books, — bound, lettered, and ornamented 
with a coat of arms, — which were on pawn for liquor, 
ticketed by the bar-keeper at the value of from one to 
three glasses of spirits apiece. " To do justice even 
to rebels," (so the Judge proceeded to say,) ** let it here 
be mentioned that, though they were in full possession 
of New York for nearly seven months, and had in it 
at times above forty thousand men, neither of these 
libraries were ever meddled with ; the telescopes, which 
General Washington took, excepted. Several rebel 
soldiers were indicted for some petty larcenies, tried, 
convicted, and .punished by order of the Court, without 
any interference of the military. Their officers at- 
tended the trials, heard the evidence, and, upon their 
conviction, declared that ample justice was done them, 
and thanked the Judge for his candor and impartiality 
during the course of the trials." ^ That was the con- 
trast, according to the close personal observation of an 
able magistrate and a staunch Tory, between the army 
of Washington and the army of Howe. If such things 
were done to the loyal population of the islands in 
New York Bay, and the streets of New York city, 
under the very eye of the British General, it was not 
difficult to foresee what would happen when, outside 
the purview of his own immediate supervision, his de- 
tached parties were ranging far and wide over the 
inland parishes of the rebellious colony of New Jersey. 

^ Jones's History of New York ; Volume I., chapter vii. 


See page 126 

Washington, during many years, suffered humbly and re- 
signedly at the hands of tlie Reverend William Gordon. He 
acceded to the historian's frequent demands for a sight of 
important documents, stipulating only that his own personal 
reputation should never be defended, or exalted, at the expense 
of his subordinates. He wrote, at some length, in reply to 
queries, which often were silly enough, at times when he him- 
self was oppressed by a multitude of urgent and vexatious 
cares. In February 1778, amid the labours and distresses of 
Valley Forge, he was at the pains to assure Gordon that there 
was no truth in a report that he would shortly lay down his 
military command ; although if ever the voice of his country, 
and not of a fraction, called him to resign, he would do it, (he 
said,) with as much pleasure as ever the weary traveller retired 
to rest. Three years later, — halfway between Benedict Arnold's 
treachery, and the expedition to Yorktown, — the generalissimo 
thought it necessary to apologise, on the score of pressing occu- 
pations, for not having written to the clergyman as often as the 
clergyman wrote to him. When the war was over, Gordon 
spent three weeks at Mount Vernon, nimmaging among the 
heaps of boxes in which the whole Head-quarters correspond- 
ence of the Revolution was stored; and in 1788, when the 
History had not as yet been published in America, its author 
received a long and civil reply to a letter in which he enquired 
of Washington whether he had ever been invited by his ad- 
mirers to make himself a king. 

The American edition of Gordon's history appeared in 1 789 ; 
and then Washington's eyes were opened, and his long-suffer- 
ance, but not his courtesy, came to an end. In October 1797, 



when he had laid down the Presidency of the United States, 
and had retired into private Hfe, Gordon appears to have 
written him a letter reminding him that, during the eight years 
of his office, he had been a most neglectful correspondent, and 
urging him to atone for his remissness by transmitting a mi- 
nute account of American politics, which then were in an 
exceedingly, (though not unusually,) inflamed condition. On 
this occasion Washington spoke out. The opening paragraph 
of his answer ran as follows : — 

" Reverend Sir, your favor of the 20th of February has been 
received ; and I am indebted to you for many other unac- 
knowledged letters. The truth is, I soon found, after entering 
upon the duties of my late pubHc station, that private corre- 
spondence did not accord with official duties ; and, being 
determined to perform the latter to the best of my abilities, I 
early rehnquished the former, when business was not the sub- 
ject of them." 

" For poHtics," (thus the letter ended,) " I shall refer you 
to the Gazettes of the country, with which I presume you are 
acquainted ; and with respect to other matters I have nothing 
which would be entertaining, or worth narrating." 

Those are the last lines of the correspondence which remain 
on record ; and there is every reason to suppose that, on the 
part of Washington, the rest was silence. 


See page 218 

Extracts from Amos Farnsworth^ s diary for 1775-6^ 

Sunday May ye 14. Felt calm and serious. And I was 
filled with Anxious Desires after Holiness. And I Resolved 
Afresh to live and Devote myself more Strictly to Gods service 
than ever Yet I have Done. God Enabel me to keep this 
Resolution ! 

Sunday May 21. Attended Prayer on the Common in the 
morning. After that retired for Secret Prayer. About ten 

1 The spelling has been corrected, in a few instances, for the sake of 


went to the Chapel, and herd the Reverend Doctor Langdon 
from the Hebrews 2, 10. He encorridged us to EnHst under 
the Great General of our Salvation. 

Saturday May ye 27. About ten At night marched to 
Winnisimit ferry, whare thare was A Schooner and Sloop 
Afiring with grate fury on us thare. But thanks be unto God, 
that gave us the Victory at this time, for throu his Providence 
the Schooner ran Aground, and we sot fire to hur and con- 
sumed hur thare, and the Sloop receved nuirh dammage. 
Thanks be unto God that so little liurt was Done us wlien the 
Balls Sang like Bees Round our heds ! 

Thursday June ye i. Thare was Sheep, and Catel, and 
horses, to ye Amount of fore or five hundred shccj), twenty or 
thirty Caltel, and a number of horses brought along, that our 
Peopel took from the Regulors of Modtiles island. Blessed be 
God in that he has Delivered into our hands So much of thare 
goods and Substance, .\nd in saving of us in the late Battle ! 
Surely God fote the Battle, And not we ! 

Saturday June ye 3rd. Paraded with the battalion, and saw 
two men whipt for Stealing, and Another drommcd out of ye 
Camps. O what a pernitious thing it is for \ man to steal and 
cheat his feller nabors, and how Provocking it is to God ! 

Wednesday August 30th. I'he Knemy has Bin a Cannonad- 
ing of us : But do little hurt. 1 found a young Gentleman that 
I Could Freely convers with on Speritual things. I find God 
has a Remnant in this Depraved, and Degenerated, and gloomy 

Monday : Sept. 25th. One man was whipt and Drummed 
out for Stealing : he was a bold and unashamed wretch. O 
that men was wise that thay would consider on thare latter 
End ! 

Tuesday Oct. i 7th. Our people went this evening with two 
floating Batteryes Down Cambridge River to fire on Boston : 
fired Sumtime, when one of thare Cannon split : wounded 
Eight Men, Whare of One Died. O the Sad Effect of war! 
When will the time Com when we need larn war No more? 

Thursday Oct. 19th. A Great talk of more troops being 
Sent to Boston, But our Men aint Scared at trifels, I would 
that our People had as good courage in the Speritual warfare 
as they have in the Temporal one. 

Saturday Dec. 23rd. And now O Lord we are in troble. 
Boston is a seat whare our Unnatural Enemyes are in Posses- 


sion. The people of Boston that are our friends have bin 
forced to leave the town, or be shut up thare amongst our foes. 
We have Sinned as a Continent ; we have sinned as a Province : 
we have Sinned as connected with a town, and as a Famerly, 
and Privates. But, O God, do not cast off this thy Land that 
thou hast Garded so long ! 

Monday 25 Dec. I fell dull in Duty, and yet I dont see my 
sin so as to foliar it as I ought. I am a great sinner, yet I dont 
see my sin aright. 

Lords-day Feby 25th. Went to Meeting, and heard Rev. 
Mr. Emerson of Concord. I pray God grant that by the 
Preaching of this worthy Man I may be stirred up to my duty, 
and to a holy walk with God. 

March 20, 1778. 1 being prest with a sense of my duty in 
coming to the Lord's table, I went to our Pastor to offer myself 
to the Communion. I had thoughts of turning back ; but Con- 
sidering how unsoldicrlike it was to turn the back I went for- 
ward, and was in some Mesure enabled to lay open my Hart 
and desire to him, and lie delt faithfully and kindly with me. 

Those, to whom Ralph Waldo Emerson has been a guide 
in the conduct of hfe, may note with interest that the gift of 
imparting a healthy and cheerful view on Ethical questions was 
ancestral in his family. 

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